Better Late than Never

Murderous tyrant and drug-dealing thief Fidel Castro is dead. About time!

The Wall Street Journal write-up of the recent death of Fidel Castro, the long-time dictator of Cuba, gave us one of the most unrealistic "expert" statements we've ever encountered.  They quoted Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuba expert at the University of Texas:

Without Fidel's charisma, the ruling party will now base its legitimacy on nationalism and economic results.

Fidel's charisma may have helped him win his revolutionary battle against Fulgencio Batista, the former dictator in 1959, but his desire for total power led to economic problems which made the Cuban people less enthusiastic about his rule as they found out that charisma doesn't put food on the table.  Having nationalized all Cuban economic activity, the Castro government found itself with the under-performing economy that always results from excessive regulation.  Mr. Castro turned to the Russians, who were glad to have a friendly outpost 90 miles from Florida.

Fidel's charisma again didn't help much as Cuba lost its Russian economic subsidies when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 and couldn't afford to prop up Cuba any more.  Fidel turned to Venezuela where the late Hugo Chavez had modeled his revolution on Cuban ideals and had engaged in the same sorts of populist economic folly that Mr. Castro had.  While world oil prices were above $100 per barrel, oil-rich Venezuela could pay for its own "social justice" programs and support Cuba, but with the decline in oil prices, Venezuela has had to cut back on free shipments of oil that gave the Cuban regime an economic lifeline.

For all of Mr. Castro's expressed hatred of the United States, his economy depends on receiving more than $3.5 billion in remittances from overseas Cubans each year, and a similar amount in merchandise sent by Cuban Americans to relatives who would otherwise do without essential household goods.  This inflow which doesn't result from any Cuban economic activity at all is comparable to the volume of Cuban exports.

Cuban decades of economic failure is no surprise.  The book Commanding Heights reviews economic history from the end of World War II to the early 2000s;  the evidence that a free-market economy outperforms a controlled economy is so undeniable that left-leaning countries such as India and New Zealand largely dismantled their economic regulations in favor of the free market.  As one prime minister put it, "You can't have social justice if you've got no economy."

That sums up the Cuban dilemma in one sentence.  Fidel made up for his economic mismanagement by sponging off wealthier countries, much as our Democrat-ruled disaster cities sponge off the rest of the economy instead of generating wealth as they should.  Mr. Trump's recent electoral triumph is partly due to so many Americans deciding that they weren't willing to pay for someone else's "free stuff" any longer.

The economic path forward is clear to Raul Castro and his associates.  Whomever ends up running Cuba could extend the younger Mr. Castro's economic reforms which allowed Cubans to set up their own small businesses.  This would clearly boost the economy, but whether the hard-liners who profit from controlling the economy will permit this remains to be seen.  Cuba has locked up more dissidents since Mr. Obama's attempts to normalize relations between Cuba and the US, so economic liberalization is open to doubt.

It's undeniable that Mr. Castro has had a profound influence on Latin America, mostly by advocating economic policies which secured his power while impoverishing not only Cubans, but all other people whose rulers followed his economic nostrums.  His impact on history will be debated by scholars and economists all across the political spectrum for as long as delusional socialists continue to infest academia, which, human nature being what it is, will probably be forever.

Mr. Castaneda, the former Mexican foreign minister, summed it up by observing the irony that while Mr. Castro's death would open a vigorous debate throughout the hemisphere about the pros and cons of his revolution, the only place where that debate wouldn't be permitted would be in Cuba.

A Tale of Two Statements

Mr. Castro's influence was important enough for long enough that both outgoing President Obama and President-elect Trump issued statements.  The vast, unbridgeable difference between their views of Mr. Castro sums up the 2016 presidential election as well as anything else we've seen.  Mr. Obama's statement is a continuation of his "worldwide apology tour;" Mr. Trump cuts through the PC fog and tells the truth.

Mr. Obama:

At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

Mr. Trump:

Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.

Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.

Could the difference between Mr. Trump and any politician who wanted to serve a 3rd Obama term be any clearer?  The motto of the state of Virginia is the Latin for "Thus always to tyrants," meaning death.  Mr. Castro is now reaping the rewards of his evil tyranny; we only wish it had come many, many decades sooner.  At least shortly we will once again have a president who recognizes evil for what it is, and names it plainly.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

The Miami Herald described the "tugboat massacre" of July 13, 1994.

Cuban government ships saw a tugboat of refugees headed for Florida. They blasted it to pieces with high-pressure hoses. 41 refugees died, mostly women and children.

November 28, 2016 8:22 PM
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