Farewell, Fidel

Continued U.S. policy to isolate Cuba will not bring the country democracy.

Ending Fidel Castro’s 49-year rule, his 76-year-old younger brother Raúl Castro is the new Cuban president. But, it was not U.S. democracy to force Fidel Castro from power. Nor was it the United States’ trade embargo imposed on Cuba. Instead, the Cuban leader succumbed to old age and illness. And still, even as he has relinquished his presidency, Cuba is Fidel Castro’s.

U.S. policy to isolate Cuba since the early years of Castro’s rule only polarized the people of Cuba and allowed Castro to blame the United States for his failures.

In his “Second Declaration of Havana” speech on Feb. 4, 1962, Castro said, “Cuba speaks for the exploited of Latin America; the United States, for the exploiters.” Days later, though, trade had already been restricted, the United States enacted an economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. Enabled by the embargo Castro was able to draw a line in rhetoric between the United States and Cuba – to vilify the U.S. government for the country’s weak economy and often brutal political oppression. As the U.S. government had backed Cuba’s previous dictator Fulgencio Batista, who Castro overthrew, the United States was already seen as an oppressor for the interests of the wealthy by Cubans.

U.S. trade with and investment in other repressive countries (Saudi Arabia and China for example) contradicts U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Since 1992, the Clinton and Bush administrations have increased sanctions on the people of Cuba as a result of the interests of the anti-Castro Cuban lobby predominately in Florida. The embargo was codified into law with the stated purpose of “bringing democracy to the Cuban people.” To further restrict relations between the United States and Cubans, from buisness to travel, will not encourage democracy, but rather only further enable Castro and his succesors.

Fidel Castro lives on as a leader who has oppressed, but also universalized health care and education through college.

Fidel Castro has said history will absolve him for his actions. History, though, will not forgive continued U.S. policy to isolate Cuba.