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Let them drink rum!

There is still no official word that statist Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has passed away, so any obituaries will have to remain on ice. It is not our habit at Samizdata.net to concede a thing to dictators, but one has to credit Castro for his tenacity in clinging on to power, especially after the collapse of his Soviet patron in 1991.

One must never forget though that the Cuban people have had to pay the price for Castro’s tenacity.

What to do about Castro has been a policy question that has vexed every US President since John F. Kennedy. Until the end of the Cold War, the US certainly could not ignore a violently pro-Soviet state on its doorstep, but after 1991, a policy of benign neglect might have worked to undo Castro. However, one of the features of US policy has been its vulnerability to poltics, in this case, the political wishes of the large Cuban exile population in the politically sensitive state of Florida. (For example, President Clinton felt he had to sign the Helms-Burton Act which regulates the US embargo against Cuba, in an attempt to secure the state for the 1996 Presidential elections.)

Peggy Noonan has more on the political impact of Castro on America. I like her policy prescription as well.

As in: Allow Americans to go to Cuba. Allow U.S. private money into Cuba. Let hotels, homes, restaurants, stores be developed, bought, opened, reopened. Use Fidel’s death to reintroduce Cubans on the ground to Americans, American ways, American money and American freedom. Remind them of what they wanted, what they thought they were getting when the bearded one came down from the Sierra Maestre. Use his death/illness/collapse/disappearing act as an excuse to turn the past 40 years of policy on its head. Declare him over. Create new ties. Ignore the dictator, make partnerships with the people.

Yes give more money to Radio Marti and all Western government efforts to communicate with the people of Cuba. But also allow American media companies in. Make a jumble, shake it up, allow the conditions that can help create economic vibrancy and let that reinspire democratic thinking. The Cuban government, hit on all fronts by dynamism for the first time in half a century, will not be able to control it all.

That is how to undo Fidel, and Fidelism. That’s how to give him, on the chance he’s alive, a last and lingering headache. That’s how to puncture his mystique. Let his people profit as he dies.

If he is actually ill, why not arrange it so that the last sounds he hears on earth are a great racket from the streets? What, he will ask the nurse, is that? “Oh,” she can explain, “they are rebuilding Havana. It’s the Hilton Corp. Except for the drills. That’s Steve Wynn. The jackhammer is Ave Maria University, building an extension campus.”

Imagine him hearing this. It would, finally, be the exploding cigar. That’s the way to make his beard fall off.

Now that would be poetic justice.

14 comments to Let them drink rum!

  • Fidel probably has nut cancer which would mean a severe loss of machisimo.

  • luisalegria

    I’m sorry to say that the estimable Peggy Noonan is just as mistaken as so many lesser pundits have been.

    If or when the US ends the embargo, if Castro or a government operating according to his principles still exists, any travel and investment in Cuba will be entirely on the Cuban governments terms. And, for the last few years, these have meant a scaling back of the initial rush of foreign investment and a repression of the emerging bits of capitalism.

    The Cuban communists aren’t stupid, and they have learned a great deal in the last 15 years about managing their opening to the world such that it presents the minimum political risk for the maximum return to the state.

    They get plenty of tourists already, in the millions, with no discernable political effect. There are modern hotels and tourist facilities in Cuba, and much more besides, built mainly with European capital, but they don’t seem very eager for more. US investors will be disappointed.

    What they really want from the US is credit, not investment or tourism. They have burned their European creditors, and would like another set of loans to default on.

  • Nick M


    In general, I somehow suspect that rumours of the demise of the great escapologist are exagerated. Certainly, I’m not sure I could stand the continual re-fridging of the champagne that went along with the extendend pegging out of Yasser Arafat.

    And what a shame it occurred in a state of the art French military hospital rather than the ditch he deserved.

    They do not go quietly into that last goodnight, do they?

  • Reiner Torheit (Moscow, Russia)

    I am sure the presence on Cuban soil of a prisoner detention centre at which the detainees have been incarcerated beyond the reach of international treaty agreements, without evidence, without trial, without sentence, without term, without a lawyer and without right of appeal….

    … has set a model standard of “justice” that simply shames the regime in Havana by comparison?

    It’s long overdue that Cuba’s armed forces stepped up to the plate to give the doughboys some R’n’R in Iraq – they can go there to referee the civil war and take the bullets, whilst those valiant American boys can fly to Varadero to spend their vacation with Cuban “comfort women” who will be whored-out in feelings of sympathy for the new “democratic” ally. Sounds like a fair deal, doesn’t it?

  • Nick M

    Yup Reiner,

    Lest we forget the hapless souls who are imprisoned in Gitmo are enemy combatants. At one point they included some folks from the English West Midlands who were on a “computer course”. Such courses are obviously unavailable in Birmingham, Tipton, Dudley, West Bromwich… There is a reason I’m not in Camp X-Ray right now. I got on with my life in Manchester. I didn’t go to Afghanistan and wander around with an AK-47 playing Jihadi.

    Your tag states you’re in Russia. Fine and dandy. What do you think the Russians would have done in similar circumstances? I suspect the answer wouldn’t be indefinite detention. I suspect it would have much more to do with a Makharov bullet in the back of the head and an unmarked grave.

    And I’m not even going to mention the completely proportionate “remodelling” of Grozny.

  • Alex

    to fidel castro his prisoners are ‘enemy combatants’.

  • I for one will drink a Cuba Libre cocktail and toast Fidel’s well deserved and long overdue trip to hell when the bastard croaks.

    I agree that the Guantanamo Bay camp is a terrible idea. The un-uniformed combatants who were captured should have been treated according to the customs of war, which is to say, summarily shot. That is the customary ‘legal’ fate of un-uniformed combatants after all.

  • Jacob

    “I agree that the Guantanamo Bay camp is a terrible idea.”

    It’s a terribly dumb idea.
    They should have been handed over to their co-patriots of the rival camps in the countries they were captured. They would have been treated acording to local custom (balls cut out, eyes gouged).
    Maybe it’s not too late to have them have their wish, and hand them over to the authorities in the countries they were caught in.

  • guy herbert

    There’s a truly glorious letter in today’s Guardian. Since the gentleman in question almost cretainly objects to the capitalist conception of copyright, I have no compunction in quoting in full:

    Referring to Fidel Castro as a “dictator” is at best a dubious label, applied most assiduously by those with intentions to kill him as means to justify their nefarious end. At any rate, I think it pertinent to point out that now that ill health has required Castro to hand power over to a committee made up of members of the executive branch, Cuba can most certainly no longer be described as a “dictatorship”, except perhaps that of the “proletariat”, in the now unfashionable Marxist sense of the term.

    Dr Stephen Wilkinson

  • J

    Guy –

    There’s nothing libertarian about copyright, which is a nasty invention of governments to reward booksellers and create an entirely artificial marketplace in ideas (a preposterous notion, really). I’m pleased to say that recent technological advancements may make copyright obsolote – at least, I live in hope. Also, quoting someone in full is not in itself a breach of copyright.

    But I digress… Castro has one wonders to maintain his authoritarian regime, succeeding where so many other have failed. I like to think that his passing will result in a bitter power struggle leading to civil war, but I suspect a Chavez-friendly replacement is all lined up…

  • Paul Marks

    I loved the letter Guy has shown us.

    It indicated that the leftists are as stupid as ever (not just one leftist, as the Guardian people would not have published it unless they thought it was making an interesting series of points).

    Castro not a dictator, his hand picked “Executive Branch” not a dictatorship.

    Even most academics would find it hard to go along with this nonsense.

    And ordinary folk reading the letter would assume (correctly) that Castro’s supporters are morons.

    As for Cuba.

    Well a lot of money already goes from the United States to Cuba – people in the United States are allowed to send money back to their familes (and so on).

    This money is very important for the Cuban ecomomy.

    As for free travel to Cuba.

    Fair enough (on general libertarian grounds) but I would not hold out high hopes for what it would achieve.

    For example, lots of British people have gone to Cuba – yet the B.B.C. still broadcast (on the B.B.C. 2 “Newsnight” programme) a film claiming the Cuban health service was wonderful (“some of the highest standards of healthcare in the world”).

    Total crap, but clearly the B.B.C. thought it could get away with broadcasting these lies.

    Because tourists spend their time laying on beaches or going round looking at Spanish buildings (held up by U.N. and E.U. money) – rather than doing investigations into the state of health care for ordinary Cubans.

  • veryretired

    Mr luisalegria,

    Welcome! I have often read and enjoyed your calm and reasoned posts at Tacitus.

    It is a pleasure to see your name on a comment here.

    Please say hello to Ken White for me. I no longer participate in the political warfare at Tac. I just got too bored with it.

  • guy herbert


    I didn’t imply copyright is a principle that should be supported, merely that it is a practice that exists in capitalist countries that is frequently despised by leftists. Actually Cuba does have copyright law, in theory, but communist and former communist countries seldom show much interest in enforcing such private rights, creations of the state though they may be.

    Also, quoting someone in full is not in itself a breach of copyright.

    On the contrary. You have it back to front. Quoting at all is an infringement of copyright in copyright material, unless the particular circumstances of the quotation make it not an infringement. Owners normally waive their rights for short quotes in non-commercial materials, but that’s only a matter of custom and the relative practicality of prosecution.

  • J-

    As an author, I’d hate to see copyright vanish. As a nerd, I’d much rather have copyright than DRM. My beef with both is that they’re approaching eternal duration, and once the entity with the ability to grant copying privileges vanishes, any ease of spreading the intellectual content vanishes too.

    Unless, of course, one is willing to break the Law. As long as I’m living under the rule of law, I’d prefer breaking it only when I feel strong incentive, not every time I want to do or appreciate something creative.

    I guess I like the idea of copyright in principle, but not in its current implementation. Which is understandable. Let’s not let the perfect become the enemy of the good, though. I’d hate to see my stuff published without my having some control over the circumstances.