Cuba's Long Reform

Cuba, Havana. Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters


The prevailing expectation in the United States, and certainly among American political leaders, seems to be that the end is near for Cuban President Fidel Castro and his revolution. Indeed, that has been the expectation for some years. In December 1992, shortly after passage of his Cuban Democracy Act, which tightened the embargo against the island, Congressman Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) assured Americans that Castro would fall within weeks. Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), in putting forward legislation last year with Congressman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) to further tighten the embargo, said Castro was on the ropes and needed only a final shove. The Helms-Burton bill would prohibit the normalization of relations with any future government that included Castro.

The only real debate has been over how the end might come. Would it be as in Romania, with the demise of a communist leader at the hands of his enraged people? Or as in Poland and the former Czechoslovakia, where dissident leaders took over the government?

Neither comparison is likely to prove apt. Communist governments were imposed on Eastern Europe at the points of Soviet bayonets. Once the bayonets were withdrawn, the collapse of those regimes was inevitable, however the endgame might play out. In Cuba, foreign bayonets were never needed; communism arrived on the crest of a popular nationalist movement. True, communism was not what Castro had promised. But if it was the path along which he, the most popular leader in Cuban history, wished to lead the country, the great majority of Cubans were prepared to follow at the time. Castro continues to enjoy considerable popular support (whether or not a majority), and the army and security forces are behind him. So it is a mistake to think he will resign. To resign would be to admit defeat, and Castro is far from defeated.

Castro is not in the type of predicament faced by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. His situation more closely resembles

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