Monday, December 26, 2016

Cuba after Fidel Castro - Arthur I. Cyr

Cuba after Fidel Castro
Published December 4, 2016
By Arthur I. Cyr

The death of Cuban revolutionary and dictator Fidel Castro is a major
moment in the midst of important economic changes. Acknowledging his
importance as an epic Machiavellian survivor in no way minimizes the
ruthlessness of his regime.

In May 2015, the United States removed Cuba from the list of states
sponsoring terrorism. This greatly facilitates interchange between the
two sides. Of particular significance, banking restrictions were lifted.
Last March, President Barack Obama visited Cuba. President Calvin
Coolidge was the last U.S. chief executive to visit the island nation,
in early 1928.

Slowly but also surely, the ruthless dictatorship that controls Cuba has
been forced to face the reality of economic failure of communism. Fidel
Castro began transition of power to younger brother Raul Castro in 2006.
Four years later, Fidel suddenly re-emerged in the media spotlight and
proceeded dramatically to lament the shambles of the nation's economy.

At the same time, the Cuban government announced layoffs of 500,000
workers, combined with liberalization designed to encourage small
business and foreign purchases of real estate. This was admission of
failure by Cuba's committed communist leaders. Havana now courts foreign
investment, while maintaining political controls.

In 2009, the U.S. loosened extremely tight restrictions on travel and
financial remittances. Additionally, telecommunications companies were
allowed to pursue licensing agreements.

The Soviet Union, vital subsidy source, collapsed a quarter century ago.
Venezuela provided limited aid, but that economy is now a wrecked basket

Enemies as well as admirers agree Fidel Castro demonstrated strong
leadership before age and illness led him to retire. After taking power
in early 1959, enforcer brother Raul handled bloody mass executions with
efficient dispatch.

Fidel highlighted his alliance with the Soviet Union by joining Nikita
Khrushchev in a 1960 visit to the United Nations in New York. The Soviet
premier was wildly disruptive at UN sessions, while the Cuban delegation
provided a media sideshow, based at a Harlem hotel.

The Eisenhower administration began a clandestine effort to overthrow
the regime, including a CIA project to assassinate Castro. The successor
Kennedy administration vastly escalated efforts.

Cuba became an active far-reaching revolutionary force. The U.S.
aggressively intervened against perceived threats, notably in Chile in
the 1970s, where East Germany was influential. Cuban troops served as
Soviet proxies in various Africa wars.

When Fidel stepped down, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice endorsed
"peaceful, democratic change" in that nation and suggested that the
"international community" work directly with the people. We should
emphasize educational and cultural exchanges, along with limited trade
and investment. President Dwight Eisenhower took this approach with the
Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.

Above all, we should avoid directly attacking the regime. Previous
aggressive interventions were highly counterproductive, and for many
years have provided the Castro brothers with the benefit of blaming all
problems on the Yankee superpower to the north.

In the past, Cuba has been extremely important in U.S. presidential
politics. Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kennedy fanned
the flames of hostility to Castro in the 1960 contest with Republican
Vice President Richard Nixon.

This year, some Republicans have strongly denounced the rapprochement
with Cuba, but Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona joined President
Obama's delegation. A bipartisan congressional delegation visited Cuba
in February.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence used the occasion of Fidel Castro's
passing to underscore hope for a democratic Cuba. Today foreign
trade/investment, education and information are keys to that objective.

Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and
author of "After the Cold War." Contact him at

Source: Kenosha News -

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