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Cuba After Fidel

As Communist Leader Passes, Questions of Ending Embargoes Rise

Spanish+architecture+and+1950%27s+American+car+in+Havana.
Spanish architecture and 1950's American car in Havana.

Spanish architecture and 1950's American car in Havana.

Jessica Fitzpatrick

Jessica Fitzpatrick

Spanish architecture and 1950's American car in Havana.

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By Jack Gihl
Just 100 miles south of Florida is a beautiful tropical island home to over 11 million people and one of the world’s most rigid Communist governments. Following the death of Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba from 1959 to 2008, Raul Castro now controls the country and that leaves many Americans wondering if the country will relax its many strict restrictions. In recent months, President Obama has begun to lift many of the laws that kept travel and business from flowing to Cuba while allowing Cuban migrants an open door to emigrate to the US. Despite his efforts, only Congress can lift the nearly 59-year-old set of embargoes that blockade Cuba from trading everything from nuclear weapons to cars and medicine.
Despite the US gridlock, capitalism in Cuba has seen a boom in both investment in tourism and infrastructure to this tiny island from many other world nations. Luxury resorts now provide a wonderful, relaxing but narrow view of the actual state of the country. They have been springing up all along the coast but where the money goes is not quite clear. The only Cuban citizens allowed at the resorts are the workers and if a tourist wants to actually visit the island, they have to apply for special visas and of course, there are special taxes and exchange rates for Americans.
Senior Jessica Fitzpatrick recently visited relatives in Cuba and had a wonderful time. She said “Cuba basically looked like it was straight out of the 50’s the architecture was absolutely gorgeous, very Spanish, but a lot of it was run down and falling apart which was depressing… and the people were vocal about their displeasure with the government.”
However, no matter how much the civilian population beckons nothing can change with Raul still being in charge. Although not as committed to Communist principles as Fidel, he is still a dictator resistant to American involvement in Cuba and fundamentally opposed to capitalism. If he is not anything like his brother a peaceful transition for this country is possible until he dies.
Raul is not the only hurdle in changing the country either. Cuba, despite dilapidated cars and buildings, has effectively set up a universal healthcare system featuring medical schools that train thousands of doctors a year and a nascent pharmaceutical industry, so although major medical products are kept away by the US embargo, Cubans have a higher life expectancy than Americans. Because of its community organizations, it has a hurricane protection protocol that has been remarkably successful. So despite the leadership, the Cuban people are resilient, strong and innovative. Any people that can keep 40-year-old Buicks working effectively and survive hurricanes in broken stucco building are a truly remarkable people.
Still, under communism the people live in constant fear of breaking rules. Fidel was more than willing to put his enemies in prison and go as far as to execute political dissidents. There is a significant fear among that people that every other neighbor could be a spy for the government. Each neighborhood in Havana actually has committees that residents are forced to “volunteer” for. No one can change the fear nor the widespread paranoia.
However, the fate of these people depends upon their leadership and willingness to change. Most Cubans were born after Fidel took power and only know repression and fear. Even if America were to lift the embargo and infuse money into the country, no amount of money can correct for a lifetime of paranoia and fear under such an oppressive regime.

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Cuba After Fidel