Winds of change in Cuba?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 21, 2008 Ed Cartoon

This week, longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro stepped down as the country’s leader, installing his 79-year old brother Raul Castro as a temporary leader.

The political change marks the first time since 1959 that Fidel Castro has not been Cuba’s leader. The shift brings hope there may be other changes in store for one of the world’s few remaining communist dictatorships.

While day-to-day Cuban life likely will not be affected in the short term, political experts’ eyes are on Cuba " eager to see what type of change surfaces.

Cuba was the archetypal communist “experiment” for several decades and Cuban progress has been static under Fidel’s rule; it is understandable that the Cuban people are optimistic about the nation’s evolution now that Fidel does not have the reins.

It is unrealistic to expect a sudden conversion to a capitalist democracy, but it is fair to infer there will be a gradual loosening of regulations and more prominent liberalism in Cuba in the coming years. It is therefore safe to foresee a flourishing democracy down the road.

Hopefully the U.S. " with its penchant for unilateralism " has learned from its mistakes elsewhere in Central America and will not prop up its own political candidates. Democracy and political candidates are only endearing when they rise in a nation organically, rather than being forced from the outside.

Metamorphosis in Cuba would be an excellent opportunity for the U.S. to diminish or remove its embargo on Cuban goods. Legal trade with the U.S. would be huge for Cuba; while it does not make or break the American economy, it would still be convenient for US tourists and consumers of many Cuban goods.

One worries that an easing of domestic policy will mean hordes of Cubans leave the country, in a brain drain of epic proportions.

However, many Cubans already do seasonal work in the US or Canada, and while virtually every Cuban has a relative that lives elsewhere in North America, most Latin Americans are proud of their heritage.

Additionally, Canada and the U.S. have strict immigration policies to ensure that a mass exodus of Cubans will not migrate.

Ultimately, Cuba has been an interesting case study of communism for longer than most of us can remember. This is why those interested in politics and international relations are so curious to see how Cuba emerges from these uncharted waters.

We should hope that positive change " even if gradual " is enticing and concrete enough to justify the optimism of Cuban citizens.

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