For a six year period in my life, from 1955 to 1961, business took me, frequently, to Cuba. Indeed, Cuba was my introduction to Latin America, where I, later, spent much of my adult years. I saw Cuba before the arrival of Castro; I was there when Fidel came down from the Sierra Maestra; I was frequently there when he was forming his first Government.
I have always been sympathetic to Fidel even as I severely criticized his intellectual laziness in not finding an indigenous solution to Cuba's many problems. Despite any claims to the contrary, Cuba was not a tropical paradise, at least not for 90% of its population. In 1957, the per capita income of Cuba was $361.00 (at the time the per capita income in the U.S. was more than 10 times as great), yet 10% of the population had a life style equal to that, or better, than the middle class in the U.S. Their standard of living was subsidized by a population that was forced to live on pennies a day. Cuba was in need of reform.
When Fidel arrived, triumphant, in Havana, he had a united populace behind him. He could have brought about reforms any way he chose. By choosing another dogma, Marxism Leninism, instead of developing a Cuban solution, he failed to reach most of his stated goals. He would have been better off taking Singapore, another island nation, under an authoritarian regime, as his model than that of the Soviet Union.