Monday, May 20, 2002

Cuban Sanctions-Keep 'em On For Now-Dubya's decided to give Jimmy the middle-digit sal-oot and call to keep economics sanction on Cuba until Castro cleans up his act. Define "clean up his act." OK-hold free elections, release political prisoners and have a free opposition. Ain't gonna happen in Castro's lifetime unless Fidel visits Assad and has a conversion en-route. Despite some of the biowarfare talk of the last month, Cuba stopped being a major geopolitical player a decade ago. Sanctions on Cuba were done so that the Russians had to give more help to prop up Castro, thus giving the USSR less money to do mischief elsewhere. Without the Soviet support, Castro can't export his revolution and is having an increasingly hard time hanging on to it in Cuba itself. Castro's left with small geopolitical tidbits, like springing for the training of Latin doctors, shooting to send home doctors with leftist doctrine. With Castro largely defanged as a geopolitical threat, we can afford to take a second look at Cuba and look at the best interests of the Cuba people. However, the question remains-is it better to keep the lid on and let the Cuban economy stew in its natural juices, hopefully forcing a change in regime, or do we move towards free trade, hoping to improve the life of average Cubans and allowing more interaction with the outside world help to bring down Castro by "subverting the revolution" by our culture and influence? For now, I'll go with keeping the lid on, and this isn't based on a half-century-old grudge; I think its the in the best long-term interest of the Cuban people. You can make a case for "constructive engagement" as Reagan did with South Africa, but there was an relatively honorable (albeit rather racist) Anglospherian government to do business with in the Nationalists; Castro isn't de Klerk or even Botha. You can make the case that the Chinese aren't much better than Castro when it comes to human rights and we're good buddies with them. China has fairly open markets and the "corrupting" influence of free markets is gradually opening up China to western values, including democracy and human rights. There is no significant domestic private sector in Cuba beyond a harried madre-y-padre service-sector. Free trade would not have the same effect in Cuba as it is seems to be having in China. With a dictator running things and no private sector to speak of to help subvert the socialist dictatorship, there seems to be little advantage to the Cuban little guy in lifting the embargo. He'll see very little of the money, as a combination of Communist Party hacks and western businessmen will get the lion share of any added GNP from free trade. If Castro starts to make further free-market changes and begins to allow a less-shackled entrepreneurial class, then I'd take a second look at lifting sanctions. Until them, keep the clamps on, Dubya!

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