Crédit Marcelo Montecino (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Cuba: a history caught between a rock and a hard place


The Cuban revolution was a legitimate response to the situation in Cuba in the 1950s. But are the same reasons for the revolution still affecting the country today? This article will explore the issues in Cuba after the death of Fidel Castro.

The Cuban revolution, before being a socialist revolution, started as a national uprising. At the time, Fidel Castro claimed “the Cuban people know that the revolutionary government is not communist”. The desire for self-determination characterised Cuba’s political spheres in the 19th century. The rebellion against Fulgencio Batista, led by Fidel Castro who rallied supporters starting in the Sierra Maestra mountain range, had the same desire. This led to a second independence, this time acknowledged by the United States.

The first political decisions taken by Fidel Castro’s government, mostly concerning nationalisation and exportations, quickly became incompatible with the interests of the United States. The triumph of the Revolution in 1959 prompted counter-revolutionary military operations to invade the island with the support of the US government. The most famous of these operations being the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Socialism and Independence: a similar fight

Cuba decided to fully embrace socialism and sought the support of the Soviet Union. Complying with the diplomatic, economic and military support of the Socialist countries was the easiest alternative for the Caribbean country to maintain its independence opposite the United States. This decision differed from the ones adopted by the dictatorial regimes of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which decided to stand behind the United States.

From there, Fidel Castro and the revolution became the guarantors of the socialist political system. Cuba was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either chose Fidel Castro, or became a US colony. The US Government reinforced its aggressive policy towards Cuba, which led to the trade embargo and to the diplomatic boycott of the country. Six hundred assassination attempts on Fidel Castro’s life were counted. The conservative Cuban opposition settled in Miami.

To maintain the spirit of the revolution, the resistance blamed the United States for the economic scarcity suffered by the island. This argument allowed Fidel Castro to justify his monopoly of power, even if at that time, it appeared no longer necessary.

Is the revolutionary regime still necessary?

Castro’s first political decisions seem justified. For most Cubans, it was a matter of justice. They wanted to liberate themselves by overthrowing Batista. People also hoped for an improvement in the education system and sanitation. Today, political institutions have recognised these problems and are still working on them.

But over the past 50 years, changes have occurred and the reasons justifying the revolution are no longer valid. The future of Cuba now belongs to those born after the end of the Cold War. The Cuban people have been lifted out of illiteracy and extreme poverty. Diplomatic relationships with the West are improving. Globalisation has opened up the country to tourism and has developed international trade. As a consequence, protectionism appears to be losing its legitimacy, as does the lack of a real popular power.

The fight between socialism and capitalism is no longer relevant. The Cuban people seem prepared. Conditions are being met for steady progress in the country. A new Cuba could rise.

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