Ironically, when Castro revolted against Washington, Cuba was the vanguard of Latin America. Today, half a century later, most of Latin America has become democratic and relatively prosperous while Cuba lingers in dire poverty and authoritarian rule. But at least it was a clean authoritarian rule that genuinely cared for its people, providing high grade medical care and education that in some ways put the US to shame. - Eric Margolis
I spend a lot of time in Latin America. There had been a move towards more progressive politics, but the 'pink revolution' has been violently opposed by the wealthy and powerful. Look at what has happened to the Chavez movement in Venezuela, Zelaya in Honduras, Morales in Bolivia, Fernandez in Argentina, Bacelett in Chile. Now Peru is set to see far right Keiko Fujimori take power.
Rather than "Democratic" and relativily proporous, much of Latin America if rife with plutocratic economics, barbaric levels of poverty, deep levels of racist practice against indigenous peoples and Blacks, and deep levels of sexism and sexist policy. Cuba's economy is in poor shape and people's wages are low, but they don't have the exploitative practices of the oligarchy, latifundistas, mineras common in many Latin American countries. Cuba has been criticized for dilapidated and poor quality housing, but they don't have the favelas and 'children of the street' common in most of Latin America. Cuba has not completely undone machismo and sexism, but it is much better than the structural sexism practiced in most of Latin America. Unlike Cuba, where women have full (and free) access to reproduce rights and abortion, in many Latin American countries it is illegal for women to get abortions even if they have been raped.