Thursday, December 20, 2007

After Fidel, what?

Fidel Castro surprised nearly everyone when he announced a week ago that he might give up power. As far as I can tell, no one took the statement at face value. Does it mean he is finally dead? Or is he recovering and putting out bait to see who agrees with the idea and needs to be arrested?

The past seventy years provide multiple examples of how dictatorships end.
Nazi Germany and Tojo’s Japan: Ruins
Soviet Union: The farce of the 1991 coup. Sixteen years later…
Franco: Peaceful death, peaceful transition
Romania: Ceasescu’s violent end
China: Tiananmen 1989. Some regimes don’t just fade away

What does Cuba look like after Fidel? If history is a guide, the conventional wisdom is probably wrong.
Will Cuban cigars still be a hot commodity when they are easily available in the U.S?
Does Cuba become a foothold for Hugo Chavez or the Chinese? A new center for the Colombian drug trade? A tropical Las Vegas?
Will a free Cuba induce massive immigration to Florida and points north; or will first-, second- and third generation Cuban Americans return to the island?
If Cuba’s health care system is as good as we’ve been told, it will be a lure for retirees-- Florida with cheap medicine.
Guantanamo may close.
NAFTA may expand.

There are at least a couple of sure things.
Havana will make a great stop for cruise lines.
Free Cuba will certainly attract missionaries- Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, LDS, Scientologist. The expected rise of religion in Russia, post 1991, has tempered neither nationalism nor capitalism. Secular missions- Amway, Mary Kay Cosmetics and Starbucks- may be more successful.

It’s a future that could head in almost any direction. Castro has been in power for nearly fifty years. A majority of Cubans and Americans have never known a Cuba without Fidel. Can any of us predict what it will become?

It’s more than a rhetorical question. The Mariel boatlift in 1980 brought 125,000 Cubans to the United States. The influx of refugees, and the riots at Camp Chaffee Arkansas, added to the public’s malaise with Jimmy Carter, and helped first term Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton lose re- election in the Reagan landslide. Whatever happens after Fidel will affect us all, in ways large and small.

As an engineer, I’ll close with my dream for a free Cuba. I want the design contract and toll concession for the Florida Straits bridge- tunnel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We still have to wait until Fidel's brother dies.