Well, it was bound to ultimately come to pass. A man who oversaw one of the most authoritarian and despotic regimes of the 20th century has died. Perhaps the most disheartening outcome of such an event is that Mr. Castro will never be brought to full justice for the inhumanity he unleashed upon the Cuban people over 50+ years. Coming to power thanks to a coup brought against another despot, Castro ultimately put into practice a planned political and economic enterprise that oversaw the continuation of the curtailing of political speech and expression begun under the preceding Bautista regime, as well as the jailing, torture, and murder of untold numbers of dissidents and political opponents. He also oversaw reforms that have made it hard for the average Cuban citizen to make a living…with a dearth of well-paying jobs and opportunities, the institution of ration books, and the manipulation of currency that limited how and where citizens could use it (The country functions under a two-tiered currency system which has existed over the last few decades, begun around the time the USSR collapsed. One currency is the convertible peso, or CUC, which is pegged to the dollar and is used by tourists, government officials, and other state office-affiliated individuals. This currency is usually affiliated with hotels, meals, taxis, and goods that are not as accessible to regular Cubans, who are paid with the Cuban peso instead (CUP)…which has equivalent value of 4 cents, and are given ration books. Since they are convertible only into CUCs, CUPs are worthless outside the country. This leaves the populace heavily dependent on the government, and continues to allow the perpetuation of their power. There was talk in 2013 of removing this caste currency system, but so far that doesn’t appear to have been followed through on). Despite mainstream media adulation over supposed reforms of “free education and universal health care”, actual citizens would find those to be hardly worth such respect…with education being hardly worth the degree thanks to censorship and antiquated methodologies baked in to such a system, as well as medical care being largely consistent only to the politically connected. Taken together, the world has lost a monster of horrible repute when considering the values of freedom and liberty, and his passing is good in that sense.
Of course, Mr. Castro’s passing is limited in it’s actual political impact. Unfortunately, his death will not equate to a change in the political and economic circumstances that the Cuban people suffer from on a daily basis. Many of my Cuban relatives will no doubt celebrate what has occurred, and I emphasize with their reaction considering what despicable hardships they had to endure as a result of the Castro regime. In my view though, to envelop myself in such a feeling ultimately gives Mr. Castro more power in my life than he deserves. What is most important is to focus those feelings toward that which will mean the most in the end, and that is the drive to advocate and support the right of the Cuban people to have the right of self-determination and freedom. That battle is ongoing. I initially was skeptical about the push to remove the embargo with Cuba thanks to how much of a rigid apparatus the Castro regime has on the island, but further reflection has caused me to see that while such skepticism is still necessary (Studies that have looked into the relationship of opening up economic development in aiding democratic reform by itself aren’t promising. Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi led a cross-national study that looked at over 135 countries from about 1950 to 1990. They found, in fact, that many dictatorships survive at all levels of economic development. They concluded that there is no corroborative evidence to presume that economic development causes transitions to democracy, instead that what destabilizes despotic regimes are economic crises. While free economic activity between two open societies can provide much wealth and success for both parties, such a thing isn’t assured when involving a trade between one that relatively is…and another that isn’t), full-on adherence to such policy is counter-productive. I’ve stated in the past that while an embargo could have worked if implemented effectively and efficiently, the federal government over the decades has shown their incompetence in doing so (which shouldn’t be a surprise considering how they handle most things). The embargo has been selectively enforced depending on what administration was in power at the time, and legislative policy meant to strengthen it really only served to shoot ourselves in the foot…by poisoning our relationships with international actors we should have been working to bring on board (an example being the Helms-Burton Act of 1996). Therefore, going back to such a policy of rigid dogmatism concerning the embargo is a fool’s errand in my opinion.
A more open policy has already begun, but it definitely can work to the advantage of those who value freedom and liberty. The next step involves testing how much the Castro regime longs for a financial lifeline in the United States before removing the actual embargo (most changes so far have been cosmetically done through executive fiat). With Venezuela in dire straits and many policy questions left on the horizon, there potentially are pressures for Raul Castro and other communist leaders to look alleviating for possible American ventures. Therefore, it will be up to our leaders to push for liberalizing reforms in the fields of economic investment and business…not just for ourselves, but everyone (domestic and foreign). Those policies that unnecessarily punish our citizens as well as those of other countries should be removed. No doubt there will be much resistant from entrenched special interests tied to the Castro regime, but such reforms will serve to open up Cuban society in ways it has been denied for more than half a century. Meanwhile, those who wish to escape from such persecution (whether their feet are wet or not) should be free to come here.
Despite the hardships they endured, and losing everything they knew and owned, my relatives ultimately created a new life for themselves here in the United States…showcasing how much ingenuity and growth are possible for the Cuban people if they are freed from their long-held captivity. If such liberalization comes to pass, perhaps there will eventually be much to celebrate yet. Here is to that day.
Some articles concerning the Castro regime, and it’s terrible impact on Cuba – (http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/11/26/fidel-castros-economic-disaster-in-cuba/; https://reason.com/blog/2016/11/26/fidel-castro-dies; http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/11/fidel-castro-cruel-dictator-ignore-revisionists/; http://www.nationalreview.com/article/426334/cuba-working-class-communism-castros-poverty; http://www.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2013/10/cubas-currency; http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418326/how-obama-became-castros-new-patron-james-kirchick; http://hotair.com/archives/2015/02/20/shock-report-cuba-is-not-the-medical-paradise-advertised/; https://books.google.com/books/about/Democracy_Delayed.html?id=oyrMvt4s1A0C; http://globaledge.msu.edu/blog/post/37124/the-pros-and-cons-of-doing-business-with-cuba; http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/the-irrelevant-ones-escape-from-cuba/; http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/07/03/cuba-wants-you-to-think-its-a-gay-paradise-its-not/; http://babalublog.com/fidel-castros-greatest-atrocities-and-crimes/fidel-castros-cuban-forced-labor-camps-the-umaps/; http://redalertpolitics.com/2016/11/27/castros-net-worth-shows-lived-rich-despite-impoverishing-cuba/; https://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2016/11/26/praise-for-a-communist-murderer-from-a-rogues-gallery-of-politicians/; https://fee.org/articles/castro-betrayed-the-revolution/)
The recently established Cuban Libertarian Party (FB page – http://www.facebook.com/pg/PartidoLibertarioCubano/; announcement – http://www.lpnevada.org/the_cuban_libertarian_party_launches_in_havana; affiliated with – https://misescuba.org/) faced hardship from the Castro regime recently. Many of their members were arrested on questionable charges (http://therevolutionaryconservative.com/video/2017-06-06-cuban-libertarians-harassed-before-being-kidnapped-and-beaten-by-regime/), yet continue to preach the concepts of freedom and liberty to citizens. For those interested, there is a way to support the party in their endeavors. After all, for all the purported bravado by public officials of how change can be enacted through bureaucracy, it is ultimately everyday people that make that difference. Here is a site set-up to offer financial support – https://www.paypal.me/InstitutoMisesCuba
Accounts like this showcase what is possible when people are allowed to travel and share ideas with those under a terrible political system. Good read – http://www.marketwatch.com/story/american-tourism-is-a-complicated-new-reality-for-cuba-2017-01-30