Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Castro Steps Down

Big news yesterday with Castro stepping down from power:
Fidel Castro, ailing and 81, announced Tuesday he was resigning as Cuba’s president, ending a half-century of autocratic rule which made him a communist icon and a relentless opponent of U.S. policy around the globe.

The end of Castro’s rule — the longest in the world for a head of government — frees his 76-year-old brother Raul Castro to implement reforms he has hinted at since taking over as acting president when Fidel fell ill in July 2006.

President Bush said he hopes the resignation signals the beginning of a democratic transition, though he doubts that would come about under the rule of another Castro. The State Department denigrated the change as a “transfer of authority and power from dictator to dictator light.”

Ezra Klein writes:

It wasn't the embargo, nor the cessation of diplomatic relations. It wasn't the travel ban, nor the plots to give him exploding cigars. Rather, it looks like old age is what did Fidel Castro in. Our strategy of isolating him and his countrymen was worthless. It merely impoverished his people and, many believe, strengthened his regime, as if he couldn't deliver all of the economic benefits his citizens might want, at least he could involve them in a grand struggle against a cruel superpower. Narrative may not keep you warm at night, but it gives you something to think about while you wait for morning. And that should give us something to think about as we consider similarly misguided strategies against Iran and other countries we're feeling too churlish to talk out our differences with.

In any case, Castro's retirement at least gives us the rhetorical cover to end the senseless embargo and travel ban that we've had on Cuba for so long. Steve Clemons has the state of play on that.

More thoughts in the Wall Street Journal, including this video:

And this timeline:

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