Wednesday, August 02, 2006

U.S. needs new policy in Cuba


Originally posted on August 02, 2006

Here’s a novel idea for U.S. relations with Cuba as the island enters its post-Fidel Castro era: Stop playing the bully.

Start now building a mutually beneficial relationship that can help Florida economically and help the United States improve its crucial and troubled relations with Latin America.

We should stop trying to stage-manage events in Cuba, especially since our efforts to do that have failed miserably there for almost half a century.

Trying to get rid of Castro through economic boycott and political intrigue has succeeded only in sustaining him in power.

Continued meddling may help create a neo-Castro dictatorship, or even turn a more democratic government against us.

First, we must end the fruitless decades-old economic boycott against Cuba, which has been loosened some, only to be cruelly tightened regarding family travel.

The boycott has neither removed Castro nor liberalized his regime.

It has hurt Cubans there and in this country, and left Florida and the United States out of position to take part in the island economic boom that will come when communism disappears or modernizes.


Castro’s illness and cession of power, at least temporarily, to his brother Raul have sent hopes soaring among exiles for an end to the regime.

But we should be wary of letting policy toward Cuba remain in thrall to the unrealistic dreams of some exiles of recreating a pre-Castro Cuba.

Exile hardliners have helped lock the U.S. for years into a fruitless hostility toward a country we should be much closer to economically and culturally.

Our policy of attempting regime change in Cuba has made a hero of Castro to many in Latin America, this man who in 47 years in power has allowed no legitimate election or opposition party, has jailed dissenters ruthlessly, co-opted the press and turned his country into a paranoid police state.


Three weeks ago, the Bush administration announced what it would do to foster democracy in Cuba after Castro dies or is incapacitated.

The report promises humanitarian aid for a transition government and help with organizing elections, so long as that government excludes Fidel and Raul, agrees to hold free elections and releases political prisoners.

Those are good goals, but the effort to promote them can backfire if the standoff between Cuba and the United States persists.

Castro’s demise will bring a power struggle.

We may see the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez meddling on behalf of his own anti-American ambitions for the hemisphere.

But we should resist the temptation to intervene, except to offer help and the trade that will bring prosperity and political reform to the island.

Urge our leaders in Washington to end the trade embargo as a first step toward a new relationship with the new Cuba that is about to emerge.

How long does a policy have to fail before it’s changed?

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