Courtesy Reuters

Until the moment in February when a Cuban air force MiG-29 shot down two civilian planes sponsored by the Miami-based exile group Brothers to the Rescue near Cuba, people on both sides of the Florida Strait assumed U.S.-Cuban relations were headed for a thaw, if a slow one. But the prospect of normalization had hardly been welcomed in Havana. The Castro regime's only claim that resonates with ordinary Cubans nowadays, particularly those old enough to remember life before Fulgencio Batista's overthrow in 1959, is that it has saved Cuba from American domination.

The ubiquitous slogan "Socialismo o Muerte," "Socialism or Death," has evoked pained smiles on the island since the collapse of the Soviet empire, the loss of Cuba's leading trade partners, and the cutoff of subsidies from Moscow in 1989-91. Socialism has lost, and even those in the upper echelons of the Castro regime know it. But "Patria

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