The image of Cuba conveyed by the recent Communist Party congress is of a country that history left behind. There was Fidel Castro’s younger brother, 79-year-old President Raul Castro, invoking the need to rejuvenate the party’s leadership — and then announcing that his second-in-command will be an 80-year-old comandante from the revolutionary epoch, Jose Ramon Machado, and that the number three position in the hierarchy will be taken by Ramiro Valdes, the ruling group’s boy wonder at 77.
Worse yet, the economic reforms that Raul Castro presented as a way of facing up to the fact that 2 plus 2 must equal 4 are anything but. Instead, they promise a measure of austerity braided into a scheme to declare various black-market sales and services legal so that they can be regulated and taxed by the one-party state.
Rather than gloating over the hopeless stasis in Cuba, policymakers in Washington ought to recognize their own need to catch up with history. Now that the Cold War has been over for two decades, what Raul Castro himself called the “self-delusion’’ of Cuba’s ruling gerontocracy threatens only the Cuban people. Vestigial travel bans, diplomatic snubbing, and economic boycotts only make American leaders look as impervious to reality as the aging Cuban revolutionaries.
The best thing Washington could do for the people of Cuba and for US interests would be to let American diplomats, tourists, goods, and services go to the island. That would only show that the supposed threat of US imperialism is as outmoded as Cuban communism.