Friday, May 2, 2008

There are so many Castros, what are we to do with them?

Cuba recently held elections for a national legislature. Fidel Castro stepped down and his brother Raul took over. I thought at the time that this was the first step towards further democratization, as the old guard of Cuba's regime slowly aged or died off.

FP Passport has made me think again.

Castro family members, and those who married into the family, represent a huge chunk of the top government and business leaders. Even if Raul and the current legislature chose to democratize further - which isn't likely at all right now - the other Castros would not want to lose their clout in the transition. Meanwhile, for one reason or another, Cuba isn't as economically wrecked by its semi-communist economics as other countries have been. This is probably due to an effective tourism industry that brings in valuable foreign money.

As for Cuba's health care system, it seems the country trains a number of competent doctors. However, recent reports indicate that there aren't enough, and that while people in major population centers may get free health care, rural people have no access to basic treatments. In a country like Cuba, where private health care is restricted, this is more than irresponsible.

What's more, the American boycott has not brought down the regime. Maybe it made sense in 1959. Maybe it made sense up until 1991. Does it make sense now, seventeen years after the Soviet Union broke apart? You could argue that it punishes and weakens the Cuban regime. Probably it does, but if the American economy was opened to Cuba tomorrow, the massive new selection of goods would demonstrate how superior the American system is. Unlike the lower-tech communist regimes like China and North Korea, Cuba could not stop American books, magazines and movies from finding their way into the country. The internet can also be a great tool for Cubans hoping to move their country towards democracy.

I thought that when the leader of Cuba was no longer named Castro, the US would finally lift the ban. The lure of America did help contribute to the democratization of Easter Europe. However, seeing Passport's never ending list of Castros, I wonder if democracy will come to Cuba in our lifetimes.

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