Cuba's Cloudy Future

Clouds over Havana, Cuba. Desmond Boylan / Reuters

Shortly after the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989, bumper stickers promising "Christmas in Havana" appeared in the streets of Miami, home of the largest Cuban community outside of Cuba. The slogan reflected the exiles' conviction that Cuba, whose economy is almost totally dependent on aid from what was the Soviet bloc, would soon collapse in the aftermath of democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe and the economic and political reforms in the Soviet Union.

Fidel Castro may still be in power by next Christmas, but it is doubtful that he will be able to withstand indefinitely the pressures that are steadily building on the island. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and its disintegration in the Soviet Union present Castro with his most serious threat to date. The threat is political and ideological as well as economic. Only yesterday history was supposedly on the side of socialism, which placed Castro among the world's winners. Today with democracy triumphant the Cuban leader has suddenly become a "fossil dictator."1

Even before the events of last winter, signs of decay within the Cuban system were apparent. Growing evidence of the Cuban government's corruption and involvement in drug trafficking, combined with the Moscow-style show trial and execution of the popular general and war hero Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez, indicated that the Cuban revolution and its leader had begun to lose their moral authority. The February 1990 elections in Nicaragua, which produced the stunning defeat of the Sandinista government, focused attention on the fact that the Cuban people had never had an opportunity to vote for or against Fidel Castro during his 31-year rule. Following hard upon the U.S. invasion of Panama, which removed General Manuel Antonio Noriega from power, the Nicaraguan elections also left the Cuban leader bereft of allies in the region.

Confronted with these international and domestic developments, Castro reiterated his commitment to socialism and began elaborating contingency plans for coping with expected economic disruptions and political unrest. His defiant vow of "

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