Foreign Policy Blogs

A Cuban Gorbachev Emerges


The United States policy towards Cuba, adopted during the heights of the Cold War, has for decades remained immutable. Even recently, the Bush Administration has ceded little ground in opening relations with the despotic regime of the brothers Castro. Meanwhile, Cuba finds itself in a period of transition. This morning, Fidel announced he will resign as President of Cuba. As if sensing today's announcement, the Washington Post (in the Sunday Outlook Section) printed an intriguing piece on the transition of power from Fidel to Raul Castro.

Change, a word sweeping across America during the primary season, has been echoed on the island 90 miles off the coast of Florida. "Fidel fatigue underlies some of this new attitude. A change — any change — is welcome, as long as circumstances get no worse."

What will it take for a change in policy? An American President willing to listen to different perspectives concerning foreign affairs, on the heels of an administration caught in dogmatic ideals. However, a Cuban Gorbachev might provide the real catalyst, or so says the Cuban elites talking with Tom Miller (author of the Washington Post article).

Can a lifetime military leader become a Gorbachev-like reformer in Cuba? A Times Magazine article set out to answer that very question concluded, yes, he can.

"Raul is also called "the practical Castro,' and when and if he does succeed Fidel permanently, many Cuba watchers speculate that he’ll actually bring a less confrontational, more reform-minded rule to the communist island. "I think he will try to adopt more of a China economic model, probably continuing much of the harsh political regime but allowing more private enterprise and loosening foreign investment rules,' says Latell, a senior researcher at the University of Miami's Cuba Institute and author of the recently published book After Fidel. "And I think he's also going to want better relations and more dialogue with the U.S.”

Nevertheless, provided a reform-minded President in Cuba and an American President looking to open relations, ending the embargo will run against powerful interests, specifically from the Cuban-American lobby.

As Patrick Mendis (a former diplomat) notes, "the speed of such transformation for a Cuban dream will largely depend on the level of freedom in Havana and the power of Cuban Diaspora in the United States."

Time will tell what policies the next President will offer. For supporters of ending the embargo against Cuba, it would prove advantageous to elect a leader who has already loosened ties with lobbyists. The alternative would more than likely keep U.S.-Cuba policy mired in quicksand.