Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cuba was saved from a brutal, destabilizing despotism

Plenty of people jump to defend Fidel Castro on the heels of his death. I don't believe he needs that. He lived in prosperity while many in Cuba went without. Many people were denied access to their own families, to practice their religion, speech and democratic rights in a reasonable manner. Castro doesn't need defense because he is not on trial and he lived well.

What does need defense is the sovereignty of Cuba, the advancements made by Cuba, and the birthright of Cubans to institutions which allow them to enjoy medicine, education and housing which in many ways rivals that of liberal democracies, often with better safety nets. Cubans enjoy a state where activists, organizers and labor unions/progressive politicians are not victims of killing campaigns and paramilitary forces which act with impunity and rival state power in their ability to commit violence.

Cuba could have experienced this terror, endemic to states like Colombia and Honduras. Instead, Batista was overthrown, and private US power was no longer grafted to the Cuban state.

Batista came to power in a coup right before the Cuban elections were to take hold. The US promptly recognized this state, since Batista allowed the US to dominate the economy through his patronage system. At the time, Schlesinger said:
"The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the government's indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice ... is an open invitation to revolution."

Ever since Castro overthrew this illegitimate regime, the property owners - most of whom benefited from this corrupt system backed by the brutal & illegal Junta - have demanded redress. There are likely reasonable cases among the property owners, claims which should be fairly prosecuted. Nonetheless, overthrowing this unaccountable regime benefited Cubans enormously - it is no accident that infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy and housing rival or exceed many liberal democracies.

Quite a bit needs to change in Cuba, and poverty, repression and the democratic deficit are very real concerns. But Cuba also has a right to resist the introduction of the death squads endemic to Latin America - often trained and directed by the US CIA. In this doctrine, political parties are not repressed, but eliminated wholesale by extrajudicial killings. This policy of liquidation persists today. This is not a comparison of moral accounts, but of alternatives. Without overthrowing Batista, this terror would have been realized.

Nonetheless, it's not enough to be better than the alternative. Now the Cuban state should be made answerable and make whole the rights of the Cuban people. Most of the criticisms of Western states are fair, and Cubans should be asked - by an empowered democratic process - how they want to live. All that is reasonable. It is also reasonable to resist the dominance of a patronage system and the intervention of US military and intelligence power, which has been deadly where it acts with impunity. The Cuban people deserve freedom from that terror just as much as they deserve democratic empowerment and a transparent government.

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