Friday, November 4, 2011

Capitalism comes to Cuba, not with a bang but a whimper

For a half-century now, opponents of the Communist regime in Cuba have been waiting for the moment when it would all be over: Some event, probably Fidel Castro's death, would bring an end to his revolution—and suddenly Cuban exiles and American businesses would be setting up shop once again in Havana.

But with news that the regime is about to allow the buying and selling of real estate, it's worth asking the question: What if "the moment" never comes? Oh, Castro will die all right. But his brother is running the nation now, and he seems to be managing a careful—slow—movement away from socialism. What if the country simply evolves, instead of making a clean break?

It's been a long, long time since the U.S. embargo against Cuba—and our refusal to have diplomatic relations with the government—made sense. Those efforts didn't bring down the regime. (And our relationship with China pretty much undermines any philosophical reason we have for continuing the policy; it's simple geographic spite, aided by politician fears of the exile community.) At this point, the stiff-arm may be costing the United States both the political and economic opportunity to assist that country's evolution. And maybe Cuba is happy to proceed without perceived interference from the yanquis. But we may someday regret the lost opportunity, waiting for a moment that might never come.

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