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The US embargo is disappearing; so, too, must Cuba’s dictatorship

The US embargo is disappearing; so, too, must Cuba’s dictatorship
Supporters of the Castros have long argued that a transition to
democracy is made impossible by US hostility. That excuse may no longer
hold
Owen Jones
theguardian.com, Thursday 18 December 2014 11.23 GMT

‘If Cuba establishes democracy – while maintaining the grand
achievements of the revolution – it could become a beacon for those who
desire an alternative once again.’ Photograph: Enrique De La Osa/Reuters
The US embargo against Cuba is nothing less than an act of
vindictiveness and spite; the fact it is finally crumbling will
alleviate the suffering of millions of Cubans. It’s “just another
concession to a tyranny”, wails Republican senator Marco Rubio. Such
politicians risk drowning in their own hypocrisy: their selective
interest in human rights does not extend to imposing an embargo against
Saudi Arabia, a vicious, woman-oppressing tyranny that decapitates
people for being gay or “sorcerers”. Despite sending tens of thousands
of American soldiers to die (and killing countless civilians) in
Vietnam, the US normalised ties with the ostensibly Communist-ruled
south-east Asian nation in the 1990s. So why not Cuba?

But here’s a quid pro quo. Now this long-lasting foreign policy outrage
is finally having a rendezvous with common sense, opponents of the
embargo need to talk a lot more loudly about democracy in Cuba. Yes, the
Cuban revolution has delivered many achievements that have transformed
lives: they are all the more the impressive given the nation has been
embargoed by a global superpower located 90 miles away for so many
decades. Its healthcare system is recognised by the World Health
Organisation as one of the world’s finest. Its life expectancy is
roughly the same as that of the United States. The island sends tens of
thousands of doctors abroad to save lives in developing nations. It has
one of the highest literacy rates in the world. It is a pioneer of
sustainable development and a keen promoter of urban agriculture, or
“organopónicos”. All of these are examples that nations – rich and poor
– can and should learn from.

And yes, the revolution overthrew a human rights-abusing US-backed
dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who presided over corruption, gangsterism
and chronic social and economic injustice. But that was 55 years ago.
Yes, Cuba was spared the horrors of the US-backed regimes in Latin
America that disappeared thousands and threw political dissidents out of
helicopters. But – with the glaring exception of Colombia – the sordid
era of US-backed brutality in Latin America is at an end, thanks to
progressive governments that promote social justice as well as
democracy. They have lifted 56 million people out of poverty this
millennium, and have done so without imposing a dictatorship.

Cuba’s human rights have been steadily improving: as Human Rights Watch
– arch-critics of the Cuban regime – have put it, the government has
released dozens of political prisoners (although they now face exile),
and punitive prison sentences and “draconian travel restrictions” are
being relaxed. But it is not good enough. Cuba is not a nation where the
people can freely determine who represents them. Freedom of speech is
curtailed, as is a free media. Social and economic rights are not
compensation for political rights; they should complement each other.

There were many dictatorships that called themselves “socialist” in the
20th century: almost all fell, and their lasting contribution has been
to sully the cause of socialism. Democracy is a universal right, not
something that only some peoples or some cultures deserve. Having an
exceptional healthcare and education system, or defying a concerted
attack by a global superpower, does not mean being let off the hook when
it comes to allowing your people to vote for whoever they want.
Supporters of the Castros have long argued that a transition to
democracy is made impossible by US hostility. Well, that excuse may now
disappear. If Cuba establishes democracy – while maintaining the grand
achievements of the revolution – it could become a beacon for those who
desire an alternative once again. But those who defend the political
status quo in Cuba do a disservice to both democracy and to socialism.
The embargo is disappearing; so, too, must dictatorship.

Source: The US embargo is disappearing; so, too, must Cuba’s
dictatorship | Owen Jones | Comment is free | theguardian.com –
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/18/us-embargo-disappearing-cuba-dictatorship-castro

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