Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Era Ends

Fidel Castro has resigned as Cuba’s President after fifty years, making him the world’s longest ruling Head of State except for a couple of monarchies. It will signal a change in Cuban politics and a change in Cuban-American relations.

Castro has been a thorn in America’s side for decades. The United States’ embargo and sanctions which were imposed on Cuba crippled Cuba’s ability to create any form of functioning economy up until recent years when Europeans have funneled money for hotel and leisure resort projects to the island.

In contrast to the way many Americans who have never been to Cuba think, Cubans are not of the general opinion that Castro is a criminal, a dictator and most Cubans certainly do not hate him. During my two visits there in the 90’s, I witnessed that many Cubans were not only proud to be Cuban but proud that they, along with Castro, were resisting the intense pressure from the United States. Cubans loved ‘their old man.’ They told me stories about the Bay of Pigs and how they had beaten the United States.

The Raw Story reports:
"He will continue to be my commander in chief, he will continue to be my president," said Miriam, a 50-year-old boat worker waiting for the bus to Havana port. "But I'm not sad because he isn't leaving, and after 49 years he is finally resting a bit."

The sanctions had disastrous effects on the Cuban economy and the United States put pressure on its allies also not to accept Cuban goods. It’s a childish policy which only hurt the Cuban people, the same people America was purportedly trying to help. Despite that, Cuba had excellent schools, colleges and universities as well as excellent doctors and an amazing and of course free health system – if you ignore the fact that they were constantly short on medications.

We should consider what Cuba could have become had the sanctions not been imposed. Contrary to East Germany, which failed miserably as a socialist state, Cuba actually functioned very well mainly because many of its farmers remained autonomous. But the Cuban people, though poor, can now snub their noses at a long list of American Presidents from Kennedy to Bush, but especially to Bill Clinton, who allowed the embargo to be codified into law in 1992 as an attempt “to bring democracy to the Cuban people.”

It’s maybe time to consider that countries should really be allowed to choose for themselves when and how they change their governments. This story was one of the underdog that plainly beat the superpower.

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