I'm wrapping up 2014 with a commentary on Cuba, interjecting a bit of Spanish just for fun. The headline means basically, the revolution is dead (contrasted with Cuban communists' longtime slogan, Viva la Revolucion, (long live the revolution).
Perhaps my theme below, in español, should be, Viva La Evolucion (long live the evolution -- of Cuba's politics, government, economy, culture and psyche). Because an evolution is what I hope for and expect given recent developments.
The world continues to assess the fallout of President Obama’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, end economic sanctions, promote free trade and encourage travel between Cuba and the United States. Call me naïve, but I do believe open trade, free markets and at least a rudimentary “marketplace of ideas” fostered by better Internet access will help the Cuban people shake off their shackles and achieve more freedom.
It may take a few years, as the ruthless dictators Fidel and Raul Castro are determined to maintain their iron grip on the long-suffering nation. But these two men are getting long in the tooth, and fortunately, both will be dead within a few years. Some sort of accommodation by their successor seems to be in the cards, and I will explain why momentarily.
I’ve heard the comments from pundits, seen the angry Tweets and read the letters to the editor and opinion columns from critics who say the president’s action only strengthens the Castro dictatorship and won’t help the common people. They cite examples of other countries where the United States opened up trade in the hopes of a human rights reciprocation. China, Vietnam and Russia are prime examples of countries still behaving badly despite U.S. overtures.
But these nations and our relations with them don’t necessarily extrapolate to Cuba. I suspect this could be a case of comparing apples and oranges. The sheer proximity of Cuba to the United States, and the similarity of its culture and primary ethnic groups -- Hispanics and Spanish-speaking blacks – with those of south Florida and many other regions of America, make Cuba more malleable.
The tiny island nation lives in the giant shadow of the United States and its formidable media, entertainment industry, financial markets and overall wealth. The Yanqui influence cannot be overstated. When Cubans who have been misled by communist agitprop for decades begin to see the REAL United States and communicate with its citizens, the game is up.
Russia and China, on the other hand, are different cultures with different traditions, and are halfway around the world. The immediacy of news, and the spread of technology in Cuba (smartphones will eventually proliferate), will really open up eyes, hearts and minds.
Who knows, maybe the dream of Havana’s streets being full of 21st century automobiles with air conditioning, mp3 and CD players will capture the imagination of scores of weary Cubans! It is not unreasonable to suggest that social media – expecially the likes of Twitter and Youtube – was a huge factor in unleashing the revolutions of the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011. Similarly, I believe social media will hasten the demise of the despots in Cuba.
But in the meantime, untold numbers of political prisoners are being tortured in Fidel’s rat-infested prisons. The pervasive spider web of the Cuban secret police strikes terror in the hearts of men and women who would love to complain about the hellish misery they’re enduring, but fear for their lives, health, jobs and families.
I don’t think President Obama gives a whit about those being tortured in Cuba’s prisons; he only wants to appeal to liberals who have a naïve and romantic view of Cuba. Obama also is undoubtedly taking this action to help line the pockets of Democrat campaign contributors. But sometimes, even misguided policy can end up having some positive results. Methinks this might be a case in point.