Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the aging Cuban leadership has struggled to adapt to a radically changing international environment without loosening its firm grip on power. The 49 contributions to this outstanding anthology trace continuity and change during Cuba's "special period" (1986-2006) in the country's foreign policy, domestic economics and politics, social values, culture, and media. Although some chapters underscore the Cuban Revolution's high moral aspirations and social gains, there is a subtle but detectable undercurrent of pessimism, as the authors show how the Communist authorities have insisted on constraining or even reversing hopeful experiments in more independent forms of civil society and economic entrepreneurship. The current leadership clearly fears "contamination" from wider contacts with the U.S. mainland; more realistically, U.S. and Cuban foreign policy experts suggest exploring mutual interests on practical matters, such as immigration, counternarcotics strategy, and limited economic exchange -- interaction well short of full diplomatic normalization. Post-Fidel, whether Cuba will experience a gradual transition, with the authoritarian regime remaining largely intact, or undergo a systemic transformation remains an open question.
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