Carlos Alberto Montaner, in today’s Herald Opinion section:
Cuba, the corpse and Paradise
By CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER
It’s obvious that Washington’s bells are tolling a death knell. Fidel Castro will soon be 80 years old, and both experience and common sense indicate that he will most likely take the dictatorship to his grave. That’s what usually happens with caudillo-led tyrannies. Faced with that, the White House has announced an increase in its aid to the opposition democrats, greater pressure against those who collaborate with the oppressors and its willingness to contribute generously to a hypothetical regime change on the island if the Cubans themselves ask for assistance.
It is not a question of imposing the western democratic model and market economy upon Cubans by fire and sword, but simply an offer of generous aid to a hypothetical transition government. This raises some questions. What right does the United States have to meddle so openly in the supposedly internal affairs of a sovereign country? The problem is that, for many years now, Cuba has been an ”internal affair” of the United States. Before the revolution, more Americans lived in Cuba than Cubans in the United States. Today, 20 percent of the Cuban population — counting the exiles and their descendants — live in the United States, and presumably that percentage could rise to 80 if Cubans are permitted to emigrate freely.
A symbol of that partial ”Cubanization” of American political life is the person who joined Condoleezza Rice in presenting the report signed by the president: Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, a Cuban who arrived in the United States as a teenager and today is a member of Bush’s Cabinet.
Besides, in the almost 50 years of Castro’s dictatorship, Cuba has meddled incessantly in the internal affairs of the United States. Cuba helped and gave asylum and protection to black and Puerto Rican terrorist groups, served as a bridge and refuge for drug traffickers from Pablo Escobar to Robert Vesco and, during the Cold War, lent its territory to the Russians so they could position nuclear missiles, espionage stations and naval bases to supply their submarines.
Frankly, if there’s a country in the world that believes in the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other nations — the vaunted ”revolutionary internationalism” — that country is Cuba, so Castro shouldn’t complain about “democratic internationalism.”
Is the White House sincere when it promises to put its shoulder to the material reconstruction of Cuba and repair its wrecked infrastructure? For half a century of thorough incompetence, Castro, the worst leader that Cuba has ever had, has allowed the problems of housing, water, electricity, transportation and food to become sheer torment. Will Washington shoulder the immense task of alleviating and correcting the legacy of horrendous misery that communism will leave behind after its devastating permanence on the island?
I think it will, not only because the Cuban Americans — with two senators, skillful representatives and successful entrepreneurs — are already a considerable force in the American establishment but also because the United States’ more alert and sensible political class is convinced that the best Cuban scenario for the United States is the existence on the island of a peaceful and satisfied society. What’s best is a society governed democratically and sufficiently prosperous that Cubans won’t think about continuing to emigrate massively to Florida.
The United States also learned its lesson in Cuba. Flirting with ”strong men” like former President Fulgencio Batista served only to open the door to Castro. The cynical pragmatism of backing ”our SOB” is always rewarded with a disastrous catastrophe. The only governments that really coincide with the interests of the United States are those with whom it shares values and ideals: plural and prosperous democracies that respect all freedoms, including economic freedom, which promote the creation of wealth.
Once Castro is dead and the transition begins, there will be a unique opportunity to bring about ”the Cuban miracle”: to turn a country of slaves subjugated by communist dogma and impoverished by collectivism into a prosperous and industrious nation of property owners installed among the world’s richest nations, as happened to Ireland, Taiwan and Singapore, other small islands.
That transformation — based on the enormous human capital in the country an with the aid of the United States, European investments and the intense collaboration of the Cuban diaspora — can be accomplished within one generation and at a two-digit sustained pace of annual growth. That’s just as it happened in Cuba in the 1940s and part of the 1950s. To reach that paradise, of course, one must first attend a long-awaited funeral.