Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Happens When Castro Dies?

Much was made of Fidel Castro's 80th birthday this past week, which Fidel was too ill to attend. Recent pictures of Fidel from the hospital show a gaunt, weak man who appears to be fatally afflicted by the still unidentified intestinal condition.

The question of what happens in Cuba after Fidel's death has long been a question. While Fidel's brother Raul has been acting Commander in Chief (supposedly on a temporary basis) since Fidel fell ill, it seems likely that he will be made dictator for life. Roig has already commented on this scenario years ago in a piece titled "Democracy For Cuba."

Of course, the great question Americans have about Cuba is “what is going to happen to Cuba when Castro dies.” While there is still hope that Castro’s government will offer a clear plan of transition, this has not yet happened. Most Cubans seem to think that a military regime will then be headed by Fidel’s brother Raul Castro, currently the Minister of the Interior. This position is in some ways equivalent to the U.S. position of Director of Intelligence that is held by John Negroponte as it oversees the Cuban equivalents of the CIA and FBI. Raul does not command respect or admiration as Fidel does, and I got the sense that Cubans saw him much as they see George W. Bush (a slow, inarticulate individual with a “alcoholic personality” from a politically connected family).

At the same time the United States will step up the intensity of its war of attrition against Cuba has happened from 1992-1996 after the fall of the Soviet Union. During this “special period” Cubans came close to dying in the streets of hunger for the first time since 1960 and, as life became more desperate and uncertain, the levels of violence and crime escalated across the island.

I hope that the destruction of Iraqi society has made clear that true democracy cannot be brought by warfare. We can only free others from injustice if we support them in their own struggles, learning from their lead.

If anyone really wants to bring democracy to Cuba, I encourage him/her to go to the island, learn Spanish, make friends, ask critical questions, and offer concrete support (in private Cubans will often go on talking about such things as much as you let them). Furthermore, it is important for Americans to realize that Cuban democracy will not be a product of Washington or Miami politics. It must spring from the will and direction of the Cuban people. In any case, while the U.S. government attempts to scare Americans away, there are still legal opportunities to travel to the island that can be found in a search of the internet. Others decide to go without permission, which can still be done safely if done carefully. Instead of sending smart bombs, we can send smart students, and figure out a better future than the perpetual warfare now being offered.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I agree. My mom's from there, and while we ain't got no love for Fidel and his collapsed revolution, we'll be damned if we watch Washington get into this...

Los Cubanos tienen que escoger a si mismo la direccion de su futuro.