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Cuba Libre!

Since 1962 the United States has upheld an embargo on Cuba in an effort to depose Fidel Castro, who has ruled the tiny island nation since he led the revolution and took Havana in 1959. Though most of Europe ignores the embargo--allowing hotel chains to open on the white beaches by investing through their Old World offices and savvy travelers an opportunity to score some prime stogies--the local economy there has been devastated. Glimmers of hope that the US would adopt a more sensible policy with its closest Communist neighbor have been consistently dashed when the powerful Cuban exile community raises its fist in protest to even the slightest hint of normalization with the man who stole their land and confiscated their businesses. No US President has yet dared to defy what is a VERY unified voting bloc in the recitivist swing state. Will a change of Castros bring about a change of policy?


The focus of the exiles' ire has always been el presidente himself. Che may be firmly entrenched in dormatory poster history as the revolution's cause celebre, but it is Fidel who is the face of the movement to those who know the history. As long as he reigns, the Cuban exiles refuse to even discuss any policy change that could be construed as a win for Comandante.

So as Fidel teeters toward death, can we expect a change with his brother Raul? The younger Castro has made some gestures recently to the US, including an offer to engage in direct talks. During a recent parade, Raul said, "We take this opportunity to once again state that we are willing to resolve at the negotiating table the long-standing dispute between the United States and Cuba."

Castro's message was met with resounding indifference in the US. If we really want to inspire change in Cuba we should flood it with McDonalds, Coca Cola and Amway distributors. It worked like a charm in Vietnam.

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