Younger Castro could seek change in U.S. relations

Younger Castro could seek change in U.S. relations

It has been a half century since Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista as Cuba’s leader, an event that was supposed to be an act of liberation, but instead only replaced one dictator with another.

The Cuban people deserve better, but their short tem prospects are not bright.

The election of Barack Obama offers the possibility of some respite, since he carried Florida without the support of the politically potent Cuban-exile community. The U.S. economic embargo against Cuba may be relaxed by a degree or two, but it is not going to be dropped without a clear signal from Fidel Castro’s successor, his brother Raul, that he is interested in redefining the relationship between the two nations.

Fidel Castro was making political capital of painting the United States as an all-purpose enemy 25 years before the Iranians coined the phrase Great Satan.

Fidel was both inflammatory and inexhaustible in his anti-American rhetoric; his diatribes would go on for hours. Fidel, 81, has not been seen in public for more than two years, after undergoing intestinal surgery. Raul, 77, does not have his brother’s oratorical flare or his endurance. But he marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution on New Year’s Day with a 40-minute address in which he referred to the Bay of Pigs invasion by U.S.-trained exiles, the U.S. trade embargo, the Cuban missile crisis and assassination attempts against his brother. The Castros have survived all of that while 10 U.S. presidents have come and gone over the last 50 years.

Actions over words

If he is able, Raul Castro would be wise to forget the rhetoric and remember that while the Cuban people have more access to health care and education than they did under previous dictators, Cuba remains a poor country that is essentially dependent on the generosity of others. The closest it came during the last 50 years to having a golden age was that period during which the Soviet Union poured billions of dollars into its economy, the better to torment the United States. More recently, it could count on Venezuela for a handout when oil prices were high, but not so much these days.

This is the perfect time for Raul to send a message to the incoming Obama administration that Cuba is open to a more mature relationship with the United States. To do so, it must open its own society, allowing more personal and political freedom.

Cuba is hurting. Three major hurricanes last year inflicted $10 billion in damage. Raul Castro should be willing to release some of his political prisoners and drop some of his repressive ways in pursuit of a new relationship with the country that he describe last week as an unhealthy, vindictive and powerful neighbor.

It’s the least he could do for his people to mark a half century of Castro-style liberation.

More like this from

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.