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Cuba's Smooth Transition to the Post-Fidel Era

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.

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Comments (4)

Lee Ward:

"What purpose does our continued economic and diplomatic isolation of Cuba now serve?"

There are a lot of cowards, like the Republicans in the White House and the Republicans running for the nomination now, who are afraid to talk. The only way these paper tigers know how to dialog is through force.

The White House Republicans are doing the same thing with regards to Hamas, actually having the gall to suggest that Palestinian peace talks can be held without including Hamas at the table.

The best that the repubs can do in terms of diplomacy is to stage meaningless, hollow charades to try to convince the American public that they are willing to practice diplomacy -- but these Republican cowardly school-yard punks are flat-out afraid to engage on intellectual battlefields -- because they are afraid they'll lose.

Schoolyard bullies are the worse kind, and eventually end up getting their asses kicked, and as Larkin's post illustrates, Cuba and the rest of Central America are sitting back and watching the terrorists give America what they must feel are our just desserts for decades of imperialistic posturing.

Don't expect anything to change if the Republicans get four more years in the White House.

Steve Crickmore:

The last five columns focused on the Pan American games. Earlier in the month he had said he was so engrossed watching Cuba's performance on television that he sometimes forgot to eat and take his medicine.

The bearded leader is a lifelong sports fan and played basketball and baseball in his youth.

I can attest that Castro loves baseball...I was in Rio in Feruary, where one of the hotel guests an American, a former student at Harvard on the baseball team, told me he had long talk in the 50's in Cambridge(Ma) coming back from a exhibition game, with a baseball pitcher of the Cuban team. His name was Fidel Castro...The only topic of their long discussion was baseball.

Fidel may have loved the recent Pan-American games, that ended Sunday in Rio, but that didn't stop the Cuban government from 'doing a bunk' and whisking the entire delegation back to Cuba on a surprise midnight flight, the night before the Games ended, causing among other things, the Cuban marathon runners to cancel their participation in the final event of the competition, and the Cuban volleyball team were prevented from attending and picking up their bronze medalas at the ceremony following the gold medal game between Brazil and the United Statea. (since they were at the airport). The reason..There were rumours there would be a mass defection of about 30 of the Cuban athletes (of a delegation of over 200) at the end of the games,..There were already 4 defections during the Games.

A country that must 'wall' it's people in, is far from free. I think Cuban leaders, Raul and Fidel, are afraid of a Eastern Europe like situation in the 90's occurring, if they ever have real liberalization.

Steve Crickmore:

Larkin, You have no dispute with me about USA's singularly counter-productive insane tactics, which has made Castro more popular certainly outside his country, while making Cuba considerably poorer and hindered the export growth the US a touch too.
As you know in health care and education, Cuba are doing well but as for human rights, censorship ( I understand that even internet access is monitored where possible) and economic standard of living (due in large part to the embargo) they are light years behind...Though, your point is well taken about freedom of movement. I'm sure Cuban athletes wanted to defect to make money rather than to enjoy particularly 'freedom of speech' etc....In the the Pan American Games, Cuban athletes weren't giving their uniforms away, as some other countries were, but were regardest as the toughest bargainers at the village, selling their uniforms only at high rates and only for dollars.

I've said it before but the cry generally to most of the people on a low income, in Latin America, is "Yankee(imperialism) go home, but take me with you!


Cuba's economic mess is because of embargoes, not central planning? Oh, you, kidder.

I've been told that the following anecdote is true. Several months after seizing power, with Cuba's economy in the toilet, Castro assembled his posse and asked "Who among you is an economist"? Che Guevara, a physician, answered in the affirmative, and was appointed Minister of Finance or its equivalent. Months later, with the economy even worse, Fidel tasked Che with his earlier response, and Guevara responded "Oh, I thought you said 'Who among you is a Communist?'".


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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