Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A living example of this is Fidel Castro, who on New Year’s Day completed 45 years as absolute dictator of Cuba.
The revolution he led on the promise that he would bring democracy to Cuba was soon betrayed. Four and a half decades later, the socialist revolution that he imposed on the Cuban people not only has been betrayed but also utterly corrupted.
A new elite, which has gorged itself on the ill-gained profits of state capitalism and exploitation of the workers, has replaced the old elite. Ordinary people are granted the meager benefits of an impoverished welfare state and an education that has improved literacy but is, in fact, indoctrination. These benefits are virtually meaningless because the Cuban people have been deprived of every basic freedom.
It is ironic that ordinary Americans are also deprived of the freedom to travel to Castro’s Cuba. It is doubly galling that the ban on travel to Cuba has helped the dictator keep the nation under tight control. The isolation of ordinary Cubans from ordinary Americans has left dissidents far more vulnerable than they would be if they could count on support from a stream of concerned visitors from the United States
Additionally, the existence of a counter-productive economic boycott has allowed Castro to blame all the deficiencies that abound in Cuba on the U.S. government.
This policy has become an anachronism, retained primarily to keep Cuban-American voters in the Republican fold. Unless Castro dies, in which case his moribund revolution will die with him, there will be no change in Cuba without a change in U.S. policy.
There has been no sign of change in the policy toward Cuba in President Bush’s recent statements, but the president has provided an opportunity to challenge the boycott and the travel ban. In October, he announced that he was establishing “a Commission for the Assistance to a Free Cuba, to plan for the happy day when Castro’s regime is no more and democracy comes to the island.”
That may sound like putting the cart before the horse. But early last month, the Commission had its first meeting and announced that it will report by May 1 on how to achieve “a peaceful, near-term end to the dictatorship” as well as measures to establish a democracy once Castro and his clique have left power.
The first step to a peaceful end to Castro’s dictatorship would be for the Commission to recommend that the president call on Congress to lift the travel ban and repeal the economic embargo, which has already been breached to allow the sale of U.S. agricultural products.
Castro no more in 2004: That should be a New Year’s wish of all lovers of democracy.