An interesting article in Prospect on Cuba today:
Unlike in eastern Europe, where nationalism helped to erode communism, Cuban nationalism has shored up the regime. Castro was always a nationalist in communist clothing, and, throughout the 1990s, the communist references in his speeches were gradually replaced by nationalist ones. The continuing hostilities with the US have played into Castro’s hands. It was as an embattled nationalist leader of a small island, standing up to an aggressive, neighbouring superpower, that Castro preserved his revolutionary credentials most effectively. The shortcomings of life under his regime were, he argued, attributable mainly to the
US embargo. Many swallowed the argument. He knew, too, how to capitalise on the latent anti-Americanism in Latin America, Europe and
Canada to give his struggle more universal appeal. The fact that
Cuba is an island makes any mass exodus or return—factors that helped to trigger the revolutions in eastern Europe—unlikely. And Castro’s elision of the arguments of the dissidents with the machinations of the superpower is a ploy that, for nearly half a century, has stifled insurrection. This does not mean that those still in
Cuba are acquiescent or happy. They are far poorer than their eastern European counterparts were in 1989: the average wage, at $20 a month, can barely feed a single person for a couple of weeks. Healthcare and education are supposed to be the redeeming graces of the regime, but this is questionable. There are a large number of doctors, but, according to most Cubans I know, many have left the country and the health system is in a ragged state—apart from those hospitals reserved for foreigners—and people often have to pay a bribe to get treated…In their call for the US to keep its “hands off Cuba,” western supporters of the Cuban regime seem to miss the irony that this, unfortunately, is precisely what the US is doing. Were the
US to relax its embargo, the result would be a tidal wave of
US capital, which the regime would be unlikely to survive. Many Cubans would grow richer and more demanding, and would no longer accept playing second fiddle to the tourists.