Friday, February 9, 2007

What was Fidel for Cuba?

The current January/February edition of Foreign Policy magazine has a debate on the question: “Was Fidel Good for Cuba?”

I was about to describe the question as a quintessential one, but I don’t think it merits the title because of the wording. To question if something had a good (or bad) effect, essentially places an unequal burden of proof on one side of the debate, and can also be perceived as condescending. In order to be fair, I believe the question should’ve been “What was Fidel for Cuba?”

THIS is the quintessential question. It applies to that which curses all leading political figures of history. And, Foreign Policy magazine has pitted two (good or bad?) men to debate this issue: Ignacio Ramonet (from Le Monde Diplomatique) and Carlos Alberto Montaner (of whom I’ve written about).

Anyway, it was a pretty good debate, but very familiar points are exchanged, and anyone who is familiar with these points may be bored at reading them again. Yet, a person who may want a beginner’s guide to the Cuba debate may find this exchange very informative.

My opinion is that there is no convincing argument on either side. It’s quite a stalemate between opposing views, reflecting how in general there are little attempts to bridge the political gap. Still, I encourage anyone to go read it at your local bookstore or library.

Here are some highlights:

In the Americas, at the turn of the 21st century, a dictatorship where human rights are not respected… cannot be sustained.

Castro’s death will not dismantle a movement hundreds of years in the making. To disavow this national character is to ignore some of the regime’s essential dimensions.

The reason communism has not tumbled in Cuba, just as it has not in North Korea, is because of the country’s complete repression. It’s a brand of repression linked entirely to one dying man. When he goes, so too will much of the fear that his regime instills in its people.

In Fidel Castro’s Cuba, however, there have been no major uprisings. When Castro eventually succumbs to his illness, there is nothing to suggest that Cubans will suddenly rise up against socialism.

Castro will not be remembered as a luminary or upholder of human rights. The Cuban people will look back on the Castro era with sadness.

It is a shame that while you look back with heated reproaches, you do not see the truth of what is happening in Cuba today and do not know how to decode the permanence of its socialist regime.

There’s plenty more (about 7 pages worth of) debate and controversial facts in this edition of Foreign Policy magazine, check it out as soon as you can. There are pictures too.

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