Saturday, February 23, 2008

An Anticlimactic Ending

The recent departure of Castro from the position of president of Cuba fails to represent the 49 year rule that began with a thunderous revolution. While the results of his rule have been mixed, the Castro doctrine represented a fundamentally different way of viewing the world. It is hard to imagine that Cuba will not end up plodding along within the current globalized economic system much like other countries of Latin America. Their gains in social capital represent a real possibility for facilitating sustained development (in the sense of the capability approach). Hopefully the U.S. will give up our historically messy legacy now that Castro has stepped down. Removing the embargoes and travel restrictions would create the best possible opportunity for allowing actual change to take place in Cuba. Most important for Cuba at this time, in my view, is an implementation of a more democratic and representative system of governance. With it's spiritual and political figurehead out of office this seems more possible than it has in decades. Cuba is already highly globalized with its dependence on tourism and trade in sugar. By identifying and implementing appropriate legal and political changes it could take advantage of the years of progress in social capital that it has sustained.

It will be interesting to see what Castro's legacy will be. Beginning his reign as a fiery orator and general to stepping down decades too late. The gains made in Cuba in areas of health and poverty were often overshadowed by stories of repression and abuses of power (jailing homosexuals and dissidents comes to mind). Will Castro be seen as a revolutionary character that sustained Cuba? Or a petty dictator that kept Cubans from attaining a better standard of living? I assume the polemics will eventually fade and a more nuanced and ambivalent account will be the one taught in years to come. In the battle of "Socialismo O Muerte!" it appears a withering death of Cuban socialism will be the final result of Castro's grand experiment.

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