What Will Kill the Revolution? 033011
Since 1959 Cuba, a hurricane torn island paradise 90 miles from Florida, has been problematic to the U.S. In 1958-9 many armed groups had worked to overthrow on-again, off-again U.S. supported Dictator Fulgencio Batista. During the battles that followed, law student Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, Camilo Cienfuegos Gorriarán, and Ernesto Guavera came to the capital as liberators. Castro organized a communist takeover of the government of Cuba with a ruthless swiftness that left some former supporters in dismay. Non-Communist and anti-Communist revolutionaries were imprisoned, and Castro is thought by some (but not most) to have caused the death of Camilo Cienfuegos. Some sources claim that Castro informed brilliant and brutal revolutionary Dr. Che Guavera’s whereabouts to the CIA, who turned him over to the Bolivians who executed him. Many historians doubt Castro’s part in the death of either man.
Fidel Castro, source unknown
Initially, the U.S. in the person of President Eisenhower recognized the new government, but Castro began to seize private property. In the early 1960s Castro aligned himself with the Soviet Union, and for nearly three decades the USSR supported the Castro government with oil, markets for sugar and tobacco, military support and direct aid. When the Soviet Union collapsed Cuba underwent a period of decline and near famine, and U.S. aid was declined until 1994. Cuba now enjoys relationships with oil rich Venezuela and Bolivia, and is a business partner with China, but still buys food from the U.S. It remains unable to provide enough food for its people, though it is recognized as one of the most fertile places in the Caribbean. At the same time, the crisis at the fall of the Soviet Union produced some significant new technology in farming and medical techniques which don’t rely on fossil fuels. Though officially the people are still hungry and the lack of consumer goods or private businesses means the “standard of living” is relatively low, the expected life span remains high, slightly higher than the U.S., and infant mortality remains low, lower than the U.S. Literacy is high and education is officially and socially valued. Cuba produces doctors for many South American nations. Though facilities and medications are limited, Cuban doctors excel at the use of herbal and commonly available remedies, making them popular among the poor.
Cuba allowed the U.S. dollar as currency along the “tourist” areas for a time, but now endorses the Euro. The U.S. has maintained an embargo of the island since the early 1960s. It generally relaxes during Democratic regimes, and tightens during Republican. In 2009 President Obama relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba, but it is still illegal for most Americans to visit there. They do, of course, mostly by going through Canada. Go HERE for a vacation in beautiful Cuba!
Beautiful Cuba, from GoCuba.com
Fidel Castro held power from 1959 to 2008 when health concerns caused his resignation in favor of his younger brother and fellow revolutionary Raul Castro.
Raul Castro Ruz From Wiki
Where Fidel was brilliant, outgoing and fortunate, his younger brother Raul is middling but reliable. After the revolution Raul commanded the executions of soldiers loyal to Batista. During Fidel’s rule he was a solid right-hand man and confidant. While he doesn’t enjoy Fidel’s charisma, Raul was one of the original revolutionaries and he still commands the Revolutionary power structure.
Many in Cuba and elsewhere hoped Raul would allow greater economic and social freedom after Fidel stepped down, but that has not happened. Though a few selected areas of the island enjoy a brisk trade with tourists from Europe and Canada, much of the nation remains under harsh rule. Foreigners hesitate to invest in a nation with a history of seizing private property without warning or compensation, and Cubans are prohibited from investing.
Even so, Raul has allowed the purchase of consumer goods like microwaves and computers, and has allowed the use of cell phones and has moved to allow Cubans to own their homes, though the government will no longer pay for the upkeep. Raul Castro has spoken positively about improved relations with the U.S.
However, recently Cuba convicted U.S. citizen Alan Gross of actions against the state and jailed him for 15 years. The trial was closed to the foreign press. Gross was a contractor working for U.S.A.I.D. (HERE though at press time the site was not working) setting up computer networks the government claimed were out of the “control of the authorities”. Gross is reported to have received half a million dollars for his work in Cuba. Since the conviction the U.S./Cuba relationship has chilled, and various forces have mobilized to get Gross released. It is said both his 88 year old mother and his 26-year-old daughter are suffering from cancer. It’s generally accepted that Gross will be released well short of 15 years, probably in less than a year, but for now he’s in prison in Cuba.
In the meantime, Obama, who was disposed toward improved relations with Cuba, has said that diplomatic relations can’t proceed until Gross is released.
The Cuban government used the conviction to complain of various “democratization” efforts, which they claim U.S.A.I.D. is. The U.S. also claims this.
However, the complaints of democratization haven’t played well in the international market place because much of the world has moved on from the U.S. versus Communism drama. It hasn’t played well at home, either, because Cubans want internet access, and they want to market products directly to consumers outside of Cuba. Indeed, the Cuban Government has promoted internet connections, though it has, Republican style, tried to constrain what users can see.
This leads some to suggest that what Raul actually wants is a better cut on the internet in Cuba, not more profits but a better place in the market and better control over what services are available. Not surprisingly, the governments of Europe and the United States are struggling with some of the same questions.
Enter 86 year old former President Jimmy Carter.
Carter has visited Cuba before, in 2002, and he has significant currency. He is viewed by Fidel as the most reasonable of the U.S. presidents.
His current visit is supposedly just a simple visit to chat with Cuban officials and well known dissidents. He started his visit with the Jewish population of Cuba. At one time there was a large Jewish American population in Havana; most fled when private property was seized. Now, the Jewish population is small, but it has international attention, here. Gross was working for the Jewish community when he was arrested in 2009.
After that, Carter will meet with Cuban officials to discuss the economy.
Carter would seem to be the perfect person for the job. He is not an official representative, but can certainly bring information back to the U.S. He is trusted in Cuba and has an international reputation for diplomacy. Carter might be able to determine what Raul Castro wants.
What does Raul Castro want?
An informed analysis would include a few elements.
First, Castro would like to remain in power, and would like to maintain some meaningful trappings of the Communism that is giving way to Consumerism elsewhere in the world.
He would no doubt like to have the government guide the nation into the consumer/information highway. It seems unlikely that the government can do that now, since it has no technical expertise or equipment.
It is also likely that Raul Castro would like to protect the Cuba he and his brother built over the last half century: self reliant, nationalistic, and egalitarian. Except for those who work in the tourist zones, there is no capitalist aristocracy in Cuba, most people are about equal with everyone else; recent reforms even include paying those who work hardest in a factory more than those who oversee.
If Cuba threw down her boundaries, the island would become an economic colony to the U.S. once again. American tourists would shape local culture, and American style consumerism would swamp the efforts of a tiny nation that can scarcely feed itself.
Further, except for the tourist zones, Cuba is a relatively crime free environment. Cubans are famously open and trusting, and young Cuban girls during the tourist booms of the 1990s were often bound into illegal but still imposing contracts. A flood of American touro dollars would upset this egalitarian society.
Consumerism, and the computer will kill the revolution.
Raul is 80; he hasn’t much time if he is to bring Cuba into the 21st Century. Perhaps the two old politicos, Jimmy Carter and Raul Castro, can find a way to resolve half a century of separation.