Monday, July 31, 2006

Cuba, the corpse and Paradise

Posted on Tue, Jul. 18, 2006

Cuba, the corpse and Paradise

It's obvious that Washington's bells are tolling a death knell. Fidel
Castro will soon be 80 years old, and both experience and common sense
indicate that he will most likely take the dictatorship to his grave.
That's what usually happens with caudillo-led tyrannies. Faced with
that, the White House has announced an increase in its aid to the
opposition democrats, greater pressure against those who collaborate
with the oppressors and its willingness to contribute generously to a
hypothetical regime change on the island if the Cubans themselves ask
for assistance.

It is not a question of imposing the western democratic model and market
economy upon Cubans by fire and sword, but simply an offer of generous
aid to a hypothetical transition government. This raises some questions.
What right does the United States have to meddle so openly in the
supposedly internal affairs of a sovereign country? The problem is that,
for many years now, Cuba has been an ''internal affair'' of the United
States. Before the revolution, more Americans lived in Cuba than Cubans
in the United States. Today, 20 percent of the Cuban population --
counting the exiles and their descendants -- live in the United States,
and presumably that percentage could rise to 80 if Cubans are permitted
to emigrate freely.

A symbol of that partial ''Cubanization'' of American political life is
the person who joined Condoleezza Rice in presenting the report signed
by the president: Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, a Cuban who
arrived in the United States as a teenager and today is a member of
Bush's Cabinet.

Besides, in the almost 50 years of Castro's dictatorship, Cuba has
meddled incessantly in the internal affairs of the United States. Cuba
helped and gave asylum and protection to black and Puerto Rican
terrorist groups, served as a bridge and refuge for drug traffickers
from Pablo Escobar to Robert Vesco and, during the Cold War, lent its
territory to the Russians so they could position nuclear missiles,
espionage stations and naval bases to supply their submarines.

Frankly, if there's a country in the world that believes in the right to
intervene in the internal affairs of other nations -- the vaunted
''revolutionary internationalism'' -- that country is Cuba, so Castro
shouldn't complain about ``democratic internationalism.''

Is the White House sincere when it promises to put its shoulder to the
material reconstruction of Cuba and repair its wrecked infrastructure?
For half a century of thorough incompetence, Castro, the worst leader
that Cuba has ever had, has allowed the problems of housing, water,
electricity, transportation and food to become sheer torment. Will
Washington shoulder the immense task of alleviating and correcting the
legacy of horrendous misery that communism will leave behind after its
devastating permanence on the island?

I think it will, not only because the Cuban Americans -- with two
senators, skillful representatives and successful entrepreneurs -- are
already a considerable force in the American establishment but also
because the United States' more alert and sensible political class is
convinced that the best Cuban scenario for the United States is the
existence on the island of a peaceful and satisfied society. What's best
is a society governed democratically and sufficiently prosperous that
Cubans won't think about continuing to emigrate massively to Florida.

The United States also learned its lesson in Cuba. Flirting with
''strong men'' like former President Fulgencio Batista served only to
open the door to Castro. The cynical pragmatism of backing ''our SOB''
is always rewarded with a disastrous catastrophe. The only governments
that really coincide with the interests of the United States are those
with whom it shares values and ideals: plural and prosperous democracies
that respect all freedoms, including economic freedom, which promote the
creation of wealth.

Once Castro is dead and the transition begins, there will be a unique
opportunity to bring about ''the Cuban miracle'': to turn a country of
slaves subjugated by communist dogma and impoverished by collectivism
into a prosperous and industrious nation of property owners installed
among the world's richest nations, as happened to Ireland, Taiwan and
Singapore, other small islands.

That transformation -- based on the enormous human capital in the
country an with the aid of the United States, European investments and
the intense collaboration of the Cuban diaspora -- can be accomplished
within one generation and at a two-digit sustained pace of annual
growth. That's just as it happened in Cuba in the 1940s and part of the
1950s. To reach that paradise, of course, one must first attend a
long-awaited funeral.

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