Yesterday Val and I posted about a couple of events - I about the U.S. Cuba Trade Association, and he about The Cuban Democracy Caucus. The Caucus wants to tighten the embargo. The trade association wants to lift the embargo and have some form of free trade with fidel. I pointed out what I saw as possible good points to that course of action, to which Val replied in a well reasoned rant:
And he may be correct, but... given fidel castro's history or oppression; given the fact that Cuba has been and does trade with all other countries in the world; given the fact that new regulations were imposed upon the Cuban people to restrict their contact with foreigners; given the fact that dollar stores are already chock full of goods - from the US and otherwise - while stores with goods available to ordinary Cubans remain empty; given the fact that the avergae Cuban makes a whopping $20 a month; given the fact that tourism is run bythe Cuban Ministryof Defense; given the fact that fidel castro has imposed even more taxes on US dollars upon his people; given the fact the regime castigates those Cubans who take it upon themselves to better themselves; given the fact that without individual freedoms there can be no progress; given the fact that Cuban dissidents themselves have stated, to Congress no less, that the lifting of the embargo will only serve to prolong their punishment; and not to mention that the proponents of lifting the embargo cannot prove that anything would change in regards to the complete and total oppression the Cuban people face...I hardly believe that lifting the embargo at this stage in the game is the prudent thing to do. Yeah, it may work, but it may also be catastrophic.
I think I was accused of being a liberal in one of the comments on his post. Ha. Anyway the point I've been trying to make is that the status quo is not working. fidel is still in power. We need to change U.S. foreign policy - either end the embargo and flood Cuba with the U.S. economy, or tighten the embargo and strangle fidel. Which will work? I certainly don't know.
But Val's rant started me thinking. Why has fidel been in power so long? I also remembered the story contained in a comment in this post in which a Cuban had a conversation about fidel with a young woman from Brazil. She said everyone in Brazil thinks of fidel as a joke - they don't take him seriously. Both posts make me ask, "Have we all misunderestimated fidel?" Is he a more efficient dictator than Hitler, Saddam, Stalin and Mao?
Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He ruled Germany until his death in 1945. That's 12-years.
Saddam orchestrated his "presidency" in 1979. That's about 24-years in power.
Stalin's power is a bit harder to date. He became Lenin's General Secretary shortly before Lenin had a series of strokes and had great power, but Lenin was still in charge. Lenin died in 1924, so for these purposes, I'll use that date as Stalin's rise to power. The Georgian died in 1953 - 30 years in charge.
Mao is also a bit hard to date because at the end of his life he was only nominally in power although he did hold the title of Party Chairman. He took control of China in 1949 and died in 1976 - that's 27-years.
fidel, on the other hand, took control of Cuba only 10-years after Mao took over China. fidel is still ruling after 46-years.
Perhaps we have not taken fidel seriously enough. He's controlled the island through very efficient repression. Again turning to Val, here's a post telling the story of two families who had their satellite television receiving gear confiscated. You didn't see Saddam doing that - and still don't see the mullah's in Iran stopping the people from watching Western TV. fidel controls when electricity is on - he controls what food is sold in stores - he does all of the things Val rants about.
I'm thinking differently of fidel now - he's a genius at being a dictator.