As expected yesterday and despite punditry to the contrary, the Communist Party of Cuba has formally replaced one dictator with another dictator to lead the island. There was nothing historic except the passing of the leadership baton. Judging from Raul Castro’s words, expect more of the same and, most assuredly, no transition to freedom, rule of law, and democracy.
The announcement that the Communist Party may meet again later in the year to discuss the organization of the government should also come as no surprise. This is not the first time since 1959 that the Party has met in special session to address pressing issues such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or economic emergencies. Once Fidel Castro dies, expect a session soon after an official, state-sponsored mourning period. It also buys them a few months to see how the U.S. elections will sort out and if it will be a Republican or Democrat in the White House. They shall adjust their action accordingly.
The rhetorical mantra has not changed, nor will it, as long as these political dinosaurs remain in power. “The Communist Party, a sure guarantee of unity,” “Fidel is here,” “our government’s work must be more efficient,” “the people are firmly united behind a single party,” the defense of its espionage activities against the U.S., the U.S. determined to destroy the revolution, and so on and so on.
While they accept that the younger generations must play a more active role in leading the country, their time is for later, much later. The rhetoric is rooted in the same style and form from the Special Period in Peacetime during the 1990s with the exception that Raul Castro is now the titular head of the government. Raul’s speculated embrace of a Chinese-style economy too shall fail, if he even attempts it all, and why encourage it? Anyhow, what is so good about an economic system like the “Chinese model” that facilitates human rights abuses, political repression, and foreign adventurism?
Ironically, Raul Castro’s coronation as head of the country came on the same day twelve years ago when he and his brother ordered the shoot down and murder with the Cuban Air Force of American citizens in civilian aircraft. While an uncomfortable issue to discuss in policy or diplomatic circles, the issue of war crimes or crimes against humanity is very real and should worry the upper echelon leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Whether U.S. citizens or nationals, Cuban citizens, political prisoners, or even other foreigners throughout the Western Hemisphere that have died or been tortured at the hands of Cuban criminals, there is a long list of grievances and victims that will want justice and redress for past wrongs. If there were any one reason why Raul Castro would not step down, this was it: self-preservation. While Fidel Castro can, and likely will be, tried in abstentia for crimes against humanity and other crimes, he will not likely meet his accusers or face the threat of arrest. Not so in the case in Raul Castro. Some parting gift from Fidel to Raul, eh?
The State Department issued a statement titled, “Statement on Cuba’s Transition.” Replacing the word transition with “succession” would have been a more accurate assessment, a factual truth. That the Communist Party of Cuba has demonstrated it is incapable of new, forward-looking thinking should come as no surprise. Such is the nature of the Marxist-Leninist system, always has been and always will be. With the placement of Raul Castro at the head of the government, unless there is a creative reading of U.S. laws of which, I admit it possible that I may not see, does not allow for the finding of a transition government in Cuba by the U.S. since a transition government cannot include Fidel Castro or Raul Castro, among many other factors. See 22 U.S.C. 6065 (a)(7). Telegraphing otherwise is inconsistent and clearly not in the U.S. interest.
In response, the U.S. should respond by increasing sanctions on the Cuban state, while increasing information flows and support of all kinds to the people of Cuba. We should robustly encourage our allies in the region, as well as those that trade with the Communist State just 90 miles from our shores, to do the same. As tourism and travel are the Communist Party number one source for hard currency, we must also not allow for increased travel to the island as some in Congress, and in the Administration, would like to do.
Most importantly for the U.S., we should also work with our allies and the victims of Cuban Communism to find a process, or set of processes, to establish truth and reconciliation options so that when the Cuban people decide that the time for freedom has arrived, there will be options on the table to hold law breakers accountable for their actions during the past forty-nine years. The fact that Nazi war criminals still live in freedom and have never been held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity, should not serve as a precedent for modern-day and like-minded criminals.
Finally, U.S. policy is modern, robust and sufficiently nimble for any Executive that chooses to engage in meaningful action to effectuate change on the island. Cuba offers little to the U.S. except for political headaches, potential migration problems, espionage, and regional adventurism. The Communist Party of Cuba has known since 1996 and 2002 what it needs to do to bring about a change in travel restrictions or for increased trade. They choose to ignore it and, with the selection of Raul Castro to head the government, have enshrined belligerency over common sense.
Copyright © Jason Poblete, All Rights Reserved