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Tag Archives: Cuba
The death of Fidel Castro on Friday is a reminder that the United States is not the only country going through a transition. In some Western democracies, the transition period is very short. For example, in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, the main opposition party has a “shadow” cabinet. After an election in which power changes hands, it is typically a matter of days for the new Prime Minister to officially name the members of the new government (with only minor changes from the shadow cabinet). In the United Kingdom, this means that after a Thursday election, the new ministers take charge on the following Monday (assuming that there is not a hung parliament).
Transition periods are more complex in dictatorships (even ones that are nominally democratic). As Russia has proven over the past decades (and China proved before then), titles are less important than who really has the power. It has been eight years since Fidel officially stepped down and his brother Raul took over as President of Cuba. However, Raul is now 86 and has also stated that he will be stepping down at the end of his current term in 2018. The question is who comes next after Raul.
Living in a swing state, the local coverage of national news events tends to get comments from both sides of the aisle. Yesterday’s opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba was one of those events that placed the approaches of the two major parties to foreign policy in crystal clear perspective.
The Republicans were, of course, outraged that we would re-open our embassy in Cuba before they have taken solid steps toward democracy (ignoring the fact that we have embassies in dictatorships around the world). To them, normal diplomatic relations and normal trade relations are a stick and carrot to use to coerce other countries around to our point of view (with military options always on the table for the worst offenders). Change only comes in response to persistent U.S. efforts to force change or the other side cracking under economic pressure.
The Democrats, on the other hand, note that fifty years of sanctions and pretending that the Cuban government is not a “legitimate” government have not helped. While there is no need to ignore the problems in Cuba, a U.S. presence in Cuba (beyond our continued lease on Guantanamo Bay which is if anything an offense to the average Cuban) gives us a greater opportunity to interact with all Cubans. Cutting off diplomatic ties and closing embassies is not a tool to be used as a sanction (except in the most extreme circumstances), but rather is a security measure for our diplomats (i.e. why we still have not gone back to Iran). Similarly, economic sanctions is a tool to be used to respond at very precisely calibrated levels to specific violations of human rights. Engagement is what leads to change.