Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Economist on Cuba

I was being unfair in caricaturing articles in the Economist as "its international coverage turns out to be articles from round the world about the need to cut taxes, privatise services and deregulate in [insert country here]". That was, of course, an over-exaggeration (this, for example, is a clear counter-example). But their lead article about what Cuba needs after Castro was a classic of the genre:

"Look a bit further ahead, and two broad scenarios seem possible in Cuba. The first is one in which the Communist Party oversees the introduction of capitalism while retaining political control—in the mould of China, Vietnam or, closer to home, Mexico in the heyday of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. That seems to be the route favoured by senior figures in the regime, few of whom show any signs of being closet democrats. The other scenario is the one long dreamed of in Miami and in Washington, of the regime's sudden collapse and, it is assumed with a confidence many Iraqis may find worryingly familiar, a swift move to liberal democracy.

<...>

America risks leaving the field to Mr Chávez, who wants Venezuela to become more like Cuba rather than the other way around (he is already giving Cuba fast internet access because America won't). And what if pressure “worked”? The result at the moment could be chaos and violence. Cuba needs not just to dismantle Fidel's Communism but to construct the state institutions that might underpin capitalist democracy. The country can prosper only if the two Cubas—the entrepreneurial diaspora of 1.5m Cuban-Americans and the 11m on the island—work together, rather than against each other. But that, too, will take time."

It's not that there is anything wrong with the Economist's case for dropping the American blockade of Cuba. But there seems to me to be one rather important omission in this analysis. Cuba might end up like China, or like Iraq. But much more enticing is the idea that it aims to ally, co-operate and learn from the experience of the various left and centre-left governments in South and Central America (with which Cuba has much more in common than either China or Iraq). This doesn't fit neatly into an analytic framework in which the only argument is about whether dictatorship or democracy is better for liberalising the economy, but hey.

Here, in contrast, is Conor Foley, courtesy of the 'unserious' Guardian, on what Brazil's President Lula is planning to do to help shape Cuba's future.

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