|Main obstacle to Cuba's development spoke at the UN today|
To understand what is really going on a little background is needed.
Fidel and Raul Castro have led a totalitarian regime that has ruled over Cuba since 1959. This type of regime once installed is difficult to dislodge despite the material, social and spiritual degradation they unleash on the host country. Venezuela is the latest example of a regime undergoing this process. It maintains normal economic relations with the United States, and is an oil rich country whose governing regime since 1999 has decided to pursue the Castro model. On March 8, 2000 when receiving a group of Cuban advisors, President Hugo Chavez declared: "Cuba is the sea of happiness. Towards there goes Venezuela." Today Venezuela is a country in economic free fall with food and medicine shortages, where human rights are systematically violated, which like their Cuban counterparts try to blame others for the disaster they have generated.
The Soviet Union provided six billion dollars a year in economic and military aide to the Castro regime, but during the Cold War maintaining Cuba's infrastructure was not a priority for the Castro brothers. Add to this that economic and environmental degradation was the outcome of various ideologically driven projects that began in the 1960s. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that for the sake of tourism the regime began looking at Havana's infrastructure. The decay that one sees in Cuba did not begin with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 but with the arrival of the Castro brothers to power in 1959. Vibrant communities in Havana were eliminated because they did not fit in with the Castro regime's ideological agenda. The wreckage one sees in Cuba was a combination of deliberate neglect and incompetent centralized planning.
However, this does not explain the fundamental reason that the Castro brothers have and continue to be an obstacle to Cuba's development. The Castro regime does not recognize a universal concept of human rights. This means in practice that Cuban artists have been censored and their music silenced for failing in their loyalty to the Castro regime. Music festivals, such as Rotilla, were thousands of young Cubans went to listen to music that was non-ideological were taken over by the regime. Access to internet is not recognized as a right for all Cubans, but subject to their loyalty to the communist regime. Travel inside and outside of Cuba continues to be the arbitrary decision of the Castro regime, and a daughter can be denied the right to see her dying father, even when both are Cuban nationals because of her political beliefs. Nonviolent opposition leaders and human rights defenders have been brutally assaulted and murdered by agents of the Castro regime. The regime seeks to maintain a dynastic succession of power that maintains the Castro family in control of Cuba. It has been demonstrated that there is a causal nexus between economic development and respect for human rights. The absence of the respect for human rights and the rule of law is the fundamental reason that Cuba is an economic basket case and the Castro regime is responsible.
This is why the Obama administration's Cuba policy has been rejected by important sectors of Cuban and American opinion because it prioritizes economic engagement with the dictatorship over human rights considerations while underestimating the continued threat poised by the regime. Economic interests wanting to trade with the dictatorship are trying to pass laws and regulations that provide credits to the regime that will leave taxpayers to pick up the costs when the dictatorship defaults on its obligations as the Castro regime has done with many other countries. This will not help average Cubans but will further enrich the Castro regime elite's Swiss bank accounts as other countries have done. The paradox is that lifting sanctions on the Castro regime in order to pursue additional economic trade with the dictatorship in the end may embargo human rights. Over the long run the lack of human rights will translate, as it has over the past 56 years, into continued misery for the majority of Cubans.