The discussion is slowly but surely being reframed. Today, The Times Online published an article entitled "Good riddance to Castro. But what next?" Let's place aside the tepid criticism of the US policy; the Europeans come in for worse. But I have to share some highlights:
"History will absolve me,” declared Fidel Castro from the dock in 1953....With half a century's hindsight, we can predict that history will withhold the absolution he expected. Cuba's revolution has deformed international relations and subjugated the people in whose name it is implausibly proclaimed. Castro's legacy is a stagnating, dysfunctional one-party state.
and in perhaps the most succinct summary of what Castro has wrought, there is this:
Castro's defenders cite the iniquities of the US economic embargo and the successes of Cuba's welfare policies. There is, in both cases, less than meets the eye. Cuba is literally in ruins: Havana's colonial architecture is in crumbling disrepair. The economy is sclerotic. Production of sugar, once the island's primary industry, has collapsed. National income largely depends on tourism, remittances from families living in the US and subsidies from Venezuela. For the leader who launched a “Great Revolutionary Offensive” in emulation of Mao's Great Leap Forward, it is an ignominious outcome.
and this gem:
The most perverse aspect of Western attitudes towards Cuba is not a misconceived US embargo, but a widespread romanticism towards its target. Today's antiwar campaigners appear unaware that the historical figure who more nearly than anyone brought the world to nuclear destruction was Fidel Castro.
Although I obviously disagree with the antiembargo rhetoric, however toned down, the article proposes a policy direction.
Our Government [the UK] ought to be urging a common approach among the EU, the US and the Organisation of American States. US economic sanctions are discredited and should discreetly be replaced: not by rapprochement and normalised relations with Cuba, as the Spanish Government urges, but by emphasising the political aims that those sanctions are supposed to advance and have not achieved. Pressing for free and fair elections in Cuba is a minimal diplomatic stance.
If we press for the relaxation of an arbitrary US embargo, we must also insist that Castro allow ordinary Cubans to travel abroad. Normal relations should be introduced in stages, depending on political and economic reforms. Under the current regime, these are a remote prospect but we shall at least have marked out a strategy for the introduction of democracy.
Call me crazy, but the embargo is not arbitrary. And in essence, his proposals are just a kinder, gentler version of US policy. However, the article is correct about the need for concerted action, as is the call for a graduated policy of lifting restrictions. But that's just my opinion. What is most striking is the drubbing fifo receives. You gotta love it.