Saturday, August 09, 2003

What will happen after Castro dies? There was an interesting editorial in the Washington Times.

We need to realize Mr. Castro's death will likely mean for Cuba what the fall of the Berlin Wall meant for the Soviet Union. After 44 years of totalitarianism, it seems doubtful the Cuban people will stand for anything less than a free society — but how free remains to be seen. Furthermore, America needs to make sure Cuba does not become a haven for "dark-side"criminal capitalism, as Russia has.
The next Cuban government and military may be staffed with a number of functionaries and soldiers who are serving under Mr. Castro, because they will be the only ones with the experience to do the job. There is a difference, however, between those bureaucrats and officers who do their jobs honestly and those who are corrupt and opportunistic. The DEA has confirmed that Cuba is a major cocaine transshipment center, though more to Mexico and Europe than the U.S. It is unrealistic to believe such activity can occur in a country that maintains such strict control of its airspace and waters without cooperation from elements of the military and/or bureaucracy. If the next government of Cuba includes these rotten elements, the implications for America are dire indeed.
The longstanding embargo against Cuba will be dropped to help our hopefully democratic neighbor get on its feet. This might provide the Latin American narcotics organizations with the opportunity they have been waiting for. They will swarm onto Cuba like flies on honey, trying to gain influence in the new government. If they succeed, they will be able to expand the import of drugs into America with newfound ease.

The ostensible focus of the editorial is on the effect a democratic Cuba would have on the illegal drug market, and some of the ideas are rather interesting. The casual assumption that 'The longstanding embargo against Cuba will be dropped to help our hopefully democratic neighbor get on its feet' is what interests me most however.

A large part of the reason (some would say the whole reason) we treat Cuba different from other totalitarian nations is because of the political influence of some Cuban Americans whose families had owned property nationalized by Castro. Many of these individuals are now in the sugar industry in Florida, and would lose a great deal of money if the embargo was dropped and we started importing sugar from Cuba. Some of them even cherish hopes they will somehow get their old property back in Cuba - but this seems unlikely indeed. None of these factors can be expected to change after Castro dies - not even if Cuba became the first nation in a long time to become a successful democracy after the anarchic collapse of their old government. It seems much more likely that the same interest groups will lobby against lifting the embargo, and the same congressmen will use whatever imperfections exist in the new government as an excuse for listening.

The future is far from certain of course, and I still have hopes of being proven wrong. But a casual assumption is dubious to say the least.

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