Feb 212008
 
Authors: Joseph Haynie

It’s no surprise that the streets of Little Havana were not filled with celebration at the news of Fidel Castro’s resignation.

After all, what happened was just a regime change.

Omar Collazo, a Cuban refuge, as reported by USAToday, said “nobody’s opening champagne bottles today . that regime is still there.”

Although his departure can be seen as the beginning of the end for communism in Cuba, any hope of government reform any time soon will be quashed by the ushering in the reign of “dictator lite,” the softer, gentler Castro, Fidel’s brother Raul. Exchanging a dictator for another dictator does not call for pomp and circumstance.

Now that Castro has stepped down, many argue for the lifting of the nearly five-decade-old economic embargo. Proponents of this position argue that the embargo is a failed policy.

This may be so, but as long as principal actors from the Cuban Revolution remain in power, so too should the embargo.

Few if any of us know what it is like to live under the threat of nuclear attack, to go about our daily business knowing that complete annihilation was but a push of the button away. Our generation knows threats only according to an unclear and non-descriptive color scale.

We have lived in relative ignorance, which has led our generation to view Castro as a folk hero.

And why wouldn’t we? He led a revolution, he looks good in combat garb and that beard is impeccable. But, as I’ve said before, frosting on a cow pie does not make it a cupcake.

The truth of the matter is that Castro was a tyrant, a murderer and a thief.

During his rise to power in Cuba, Castro, like all dictators before him, eliminated his opposition.

With the assistance of Che Guevara and Raul, Castro consolidated power by ordering the execution of numerous Cuban officials loyal to the pre-Castro government. Walls peppered with bullet holes stand as grim reminders of the extent to which Castro eliminated any opposition.

During his ascension to power, Castro nationalized billions of dollars in foreign and domestic privately owned land in Cuba, igniting protest from many businesses and private landowners. This only served to increase the ire of the United States, as many of those foreign businesses were American.

However, the economics behind the raising of the embargo would certainly have a positive impact in both the U.S. and Cuba. Cruise lines and tourist agencies would love to make Cuba an available destination on their list of travel locations. American farmers are salivating at the estimated $300 million of revenue from produce sales. The auto industry sees 11 million new customers who, as a result of Castro’s socialist policies, have been driving the same old cars for 50 years.

And let’s not forget about the “stogies” my colleagues on the Collegian Editorial Board so lovingly referred to on Wednesday.

However, we cannot let our pocketbooks drive our foreign policy and blind us to the atrocities committed under the Castro regime.

As long as Cuba remains a communist state, complete with leaders who possess and share anti-American sentiments, America should keep its distance. Until democracy is embraced and the country holds free and fair elections, America should maintain the embargo.

Until the numerous human rights violations end, principally the repression of political dissenters, the international community should refrain from doing business with the communist country. The 1.2 million Cuban-Americans won’t disagree.

El Commandante is gone and good riddance. But hold the celebration until real change takes place.

Joseph Haynie is a senior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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