[Marxism] Post-Castro Cuba will demand a fresh U.S. approach

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 16 06:28:44 MDT 2006

Regardless of the political viewpoint in any one of these many
commentaries - and this one is a mixture of good and not-so-good
- the most important thing going on in the United States today is
that there is finally some public discussion of U.S. policy toward
Cuba. That is excellent, no matter what the specific opinion which
any one article expresses. This should only be encouraged and for
those of us who are supporters of Cuba's maintaining its national
independence, these are times to write letters to the editor and
commend them for having such discussions. Further, we should try
to advance public discussion of U.S. Cuba policy as much as we
can, in the media and generally. This is possible both because
of Fidel Castro's illness, and because of the debate within the
U.S. today over immigrants coming to the country. This, for oneQ
example, is a good time to discuss the Cuban Adjustment Act and
many other ways in which Cubans have received preferential kinds
of treatment for over 45 years. These things, which have until
now nearly NEVER been publicly talked about, now should be.

On immigration, and the Cuban Adjustment Act:

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

Post-Castro Cuba will demand a fresh U.S. approach
By Ian Weetman

August 15, 2006


Your recent editorial on Cuba after Castro rightly warns about the
excessive influence of certain South Florida Cubans in the inevitable
transition on that island. You worry about the lack of a State
Department special task force. This is incorrect. A transition
coordinator is already in place, and a plan was presented,
coincidentally, just before Castro's sudden health crisis. The
problem will not be a lack of planning, but an excess of planning
driven by ideology, intransigence and the activist elements of the
exile community, who, as you point out, wield disproportionate
influence on the electoral math of Florida.

Having lived in Cuba, I have no doubt that history will be very harsh
on Castro for denying three generations of Cubans the opportunity to
make the most of their talents, create wealth for their families, and
enjoy the right of free speech that we take for granted here. That
said, it is the irrationality of U.S. policy that has kept him in
power. The U.S. has obligingly played the role of the external enemy
that a wily dictator has been able to blame for his own mistakes.

Because there has been such limited contact between Americans and
Cubans thanks to the travel embargo (I am British and was not subject
to this limitation on my personal freedom), perceptions of life on
the island tend to be seen through the prism of an activist.

Life is unacceptably hard for those Cubans (50 percent of them) who
do not receive remittances from abroad nor have access to the tourist
industry, no question. In fact, it is not great for anyone. Yet the
utter and abject poverty found in every shanty town south of the Rio
Grande is also absent. In numerous measures of education and health
care, Cuba outstrips Latin America and in some cases even the United
States. I have often said that if Castro had the guts to call an open
election, he might just win on the backs of rural voters who value
stability over uncertainty.

This social safety net is worth protecting. For all his faults,
Castro has also consistently appointed the best and brightest to
Cabinet-level positions, and high-level corruption is refreshingly
absent. This information is often conveniently overlooked or denied
here. Of course, these competent individuals should be answerable to
the Cuban electorate, and preferably sooner rather than later.

Raul Castro will not command the same respect and deference as his
brother, so if Fidel remains incapacitated, change is in the air. 
The Cuban economy, at a macro level, is also in fairly good shape. 
The best people to initially manage it are surely the reform-minded
individuals who are already in place inHavana. But likely as not,
they will be thrown out by a group of wealthy second- and
third-generation exiles keen to settle old scores.

I worry that such a group will be allowed to exploit its electoral
usefulness in South Florida to impose an instant money-driven
"democracy" in Cuba, for which Cubans are not yet prepared.
Russian-style privatization will follow, a few fantastically rich
oligarchs will emerge, millions of Cubans will lose their social
safety net, some will be thrown out of their reclaimed homes, and
many will end up in the abject poverty of the shanty town. George and
Jeb Bush will then celebrate the "triumph of democracy."

This need not happen. Raul Castro has a nasty history and may
foolishly try to hold on to power. But the best chance for a stable
transition is immediate engagement with him and the responsible,
competent players around him.

I just worry that the same mistakes of the past 45 years will prevail
in Washington, and power will end up in the hands of a minority of
wealthy exiles and not the 11 million in-situ Cubans. Our elected
officials and the Cuban U.S. community are overwhelmingly motivated
by nothing other than good faith and desire for positive change, but
there is a stubborn unwillingness to recognize the few strengths that
are present within the existing Cuban system and exploit them
accordingly. Such discrimination is not in the style of the current
U.S. administration. We should have learned by now that capitalist
democracies cannot be imposed overnight, but I suspect that we have

Ian Weetman lives in Salisbury Mills.

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