Day By Day

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cuba Libre?

You knew it was coming. For the past year and more Fidel Castro, the Monster of Sierra Maestra, has been lapsing into a state of senile dementia that has rendered him incapable of acting effectively as head of state. State officials have kept a lid on the situation and have been governing in his stead through the long period of decline. It was only a matter of time until the real state of affairs was made public. Well, that time has come.

Now it is official. The sick old dictator has resigned, passing control to his equally brutal and only marginally less competent brother Raul. Babalu Blog has the announcement here; New York Times story here. This is a continuation of the sham. Raul is an alcoholic and only five years younger than Fidel. There is no chance that he will act as an effective chief of state. The committees that have been running things so far will continue to do so as various figures within the state apparatus contend for power.

Don't expect radical change immediately. Rather look for gradual liberalization of the regime as the old guard who fought with Fidel dies off and is replaced by a new generation of leaders.

What is probably most significant here is that Fidel's retirement provides an excuse for the United States to lift its trade and travel embargoes on Cuba. That will almost certainly happen if a Democrat gains the White House and there is no political crisis in Cuba. There is also a possibility that restrictions will be lifted or relaxed in a McCain administration [McCain seems to argue that easing of trade restrictions will hinge on political liberalization in Cuba]. Maybe Bush himself will act. Whatever the situation, we have here an opportunity to create a far more humane and reasonable relationship with Cuba. [the candidates' reactions are here; Michelle Malkin reports that Bush has no intention of lifting the embargo here.]

Who knows, maybe in a year or so "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I will be able to spend the worst weeks of winter lolling on a Cuban beach.

The basic questions are, (1) was Castro simply another Latin American caudillo whose system will die with him, or did he institutionalize his authoritarian system; (2) will the United States take this opportunity to redefine our relationship with the Cuban regime; (3) will liberalization take place in Cuba, and if so, will it be accompanied by violent conflict?

Time will tell.

Babalu Blog has extensive commentary here.

The Cuban Archive documents the atrocities committed by the Castro regime [here].

The Miami Herald commentary is here.