Cuba Si, Fidel No

August 10, 1994

The riot against the Fidel Castro regime last Friday in Havana brought protest to a new level of openness in Communist Cuba. Cuba is unraveling. Nothing works. The economy is creaking to a halt. People are desperate. There is a question how much longer this can go on.

But Mr. Castro will survive this week and next week. The orchestrated demonstration Sunday in support of his regime was more than ten times larger. Mr. Castro and the Communists he has kept in power since 1958 still monopolize power, communications and patronage in Cuban society.

His is not the only regime seeking to lure foreign investment capital while retaining a Communist monopoly of power.

China and Vietnam are doing the same, more successfully. U.S. investors are kept out by U.S. law, which gives advantage to Canadian, European and East Asian competitors, few of whom are taking it up. Mexican businesses, however, are jumping to the fore among those willing to risk Cuban conditions. And risk it is.

It is not American sanctions that are ruining Cuba. It is the ossification of the Cuban Communist system, along with withdrawal of former Soviet aid. Mr. Castro took over a growing economy that was rapidly enlarging the Cuban middle classes, and over 36 years dictated it into the ground.

The air of crisis in Havana grew with the hijacking of three Cuban ferry boats by refugees hoping to make Florida. None did. Yesterday, another boat was hijacked. In threatening the U.S. with a repeat of the 1980 Mariel boatlift, which brought 125,266 Cubans to our shores, Mr. Castro is making mischief at Washington's expense.

Mr. Castro knows the Clinton administration does not want another wave of Cuban immigrants. He knows the Mariel boatlift added a decade to his own regime. He knows the U.S. is already leery of Haitian immigrants and could not handle a larger wave from Cuba. He knows that even the powerful Cuban American National Foundation no longer encourages Cuban migration here. And he knows that the Cuban Adjustment Act remains on the books, mandating that any Cuban who left the island illegally gets to stay here.

The Clinton administration shares an interest with the Castro administration in revising that act. But it could not rescue the Castro dictatorship even if it wished. Fidel's Cuba doesn't work. Fidel is what's wrong. Without him, communism would fall and Cuba would liberate itself.

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