Mark Whittington – Wed Apr 20, 1:15 pm ET
The Fidel Castro era in Cuba is drawing to a close, not with a bang as
has been attempted several times, including the Bay of Pigs invasion of
just 50 years ago, but with a whimper at the Cuban Communist Party
Congress in Havana.
That does not necessarily mean that the communist era in Cuba is drawing
to a close. Fidel's brother, Raul Castro, the current president is
taking pains to make sure that whatever follows the Castro brothers will
follow, more or less, the precepts of the communist, totalitarian
government that has ruled Cuban for more than 50 years. For instance,
the second highest post in the Cuban Communist party was filled by José
Ramón Machado, age 80, a close ally of the Castros who had fought in the
revolution in the 1950s that overthrew the former dictator, Bastista.
The Communist Party Congress did vote on certain reforms, including
granting the Cuban people the right to own private property. But these
are an attempt to preserve rather than reform the communist system in Cuba.
In a strange way, Cuba in 2011 strongly resembles the Soviet Union in
the early to mid-1980s. It is ruled over by a gerontocracy of old line
communists who are as physically frail as they are out of touch with the
realities of the 21st century. Any attempt at reforming the system seems
to be similar to the perestroika program of Mikhail Gorbachev, which led
eventually to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The old men who have Cuba in their grip are determined that Cuba will
not share Russia's fate. There is no younger generation that has been
groomed to take power after the Castro brothers shuffle off this mortal
coil. The task of the Cuban leadership will be to train and groom such
young people, making sure that they are ideologically sound and will not
take Cuba in a direction they don't want.
But as previous communist tyrannies have found, loosing things just a
little tend to lead to further demands for freedom that can spiral out
of control. The Soviet Empire fell as people began to realize that the
State had lost the will to enforce its will through massive violence.
The Chinese communist government maintained control with a massacre of
student dissidents in Tiananmen Square.
Which path will Cuba take, post Castro? Can a tiny country remain aloof
from the world without the dead hand of Fidel Castro? Maybe not. The
logic of history suggests a new birth of freedom in Cuba, sooner or
later, and an end to the decades' long nightmare.