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.