As CBS News reports, Cuba has executed a smooth transition to a government without Fidel Castro at the helm.
While Cuba passed the one-year anniversary of Fidel Castro's withdrawal from power without official mention of the fact on Tuesday, some local radio stations ran commentaries noting that despite predictions of uprisings and chaos following the announcement of Castro's illness, the island remained calm, CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum reported from Havana.
Castro, who turns 81 on Aug. 13, has not been seen in public since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery and withdrew from day-to-day government on July 31, 2006.
But Cuba's communist leadership has defied predictions it would weaken without the man who had led it since 1959, functioning smoothly under 76-year-old Raúl, the defense minister and first Vice-President.
Raúl Castro has made several diplomatic initiatives towards the Bush administration that have been predictably rebuffed. This is unfortunate and will be increasingly difficult to justify now that Fidel Castro is no longer in power. What purpose does our continued economic and diplomatic isolation of Cuba now serve?
Yes, Cuba is not a democracy, but neither are dozens of countries with which the US has close relations: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and Russia to name just a few. Some might point to the fact that Cuba is still listed as a "state sponsor of terror" by the US State Department along with 4 other countries. The US still maintains diplomatic relations with two other countries on that list however: Sudan and Syria.
The reasons the State Department gives for maintaining Cuba on this list seem fairly weak:
- Cuba actively continued to oppose the U.S.-led Coalition prosecuting the global war on terror and has publicly condemned various U.S. policies and actions.
- To U.S. knowledge, Cuba did not attempt to track, block, or seize terrorist assets.
- No new counterterrorism laws were enacted.
- To date, the Cuban Government has taken no action against al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.
- Cuba did not undertake any counterterrorism efforts in international and regional fora.
- Cuba invests heavily in biotechnology, and there is some dispute about the existence and extent of Cuba's offensive biological weapons program.
- The Cuban Government maintains friendly ties with Iran and North Korea.
- The Cuban Government continues to permit U.S. fugitives to live legally in Cuba, and is unlikely to satisfy U.S. extradition requests for terrorists harbored in the country.
- The Government of Cuba maintains close relationships with other state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and North Korea, and has provided safe haven to members of ETA, FARC, and the ELN.
The fugitives that the State Department refers to are individuals who entered Cuba way back in the 1970's. As far as harboring ETA, FARC, and ELN members we aren't at war with any of these terrorist groups the last I checked. Iraq continues to harbor the PKK terrorist group and we maintain diplomatic relations with them. These terrorist groups are not using Cuban soil to stage attacks unlike the PKK which uses Iraqi soil to attack Turkey.
With regards to Cuba's lack of support in our fight with Al Qaeda, their antipathy seems to be shared by most people in Latin America, many of whom view our battle with terrorism as just rewards for decades of imperialistic trampling on the sovereignty of foreign countries (something we've done quite a bit of in Latin America).
I sincerely hope that Bush seizes the opportunity presented by his lame-duck status and normalizes relations with Cuba as President Clinton did with Vietnam before his term came to an end. If he does not, it will be unlikely to happen for some time because of the political clout of Florida's large Cuban community. No Presidential candidate can afford to alienate this community and risk losing Florida in the election so we are likely to see them all tow the line on the deep freeze toward Cuba.
For once, it would be nice to see President Bush do the right thing and normalize relations with our close neighbor Cuba.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!