Castro’s death an opportunity?

Fidel Castro’s death certainly is the end of an era, that of the cult of personality that kept Cubans oppressed and without economic opportunity for decades.

But does Castro’s demise signal an end to repressive rule of the island nation? Probably not.

For more than half a century, Castro ran Cuba as a communist enclave in the new world. His alliance with the old Soviet Union ratcheted up tension between Havana and Washington, bringing the world as close to nuclear confrontation as it ever had been.

Both Democrat and Republican presidents shunned Castro, enforcing strict bans on trade and even visits to the island by Americans.

Evidence of just how bad things became under Castro can be seen in large communities of Cuban exiles in the United States. More than 1.5 million people fled the island, coming here to build new lives.

For them, Castro’s death was cause for celebration. Exiles cheered both because the dictator is gone and in anticipation his death may bring improved conditions to Cuba.

It is unlikely that will happen soon.

For several years, Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, has held power in Cuba. Though he has allowed some economic reforms, the Cuban people remain victims of repression.

Even if Raul Castro mellows, a gigantic Cuban government bureaucracy has no reason to relax its hold on the people. They, including leaders in the military, will not change their ways easily.

So yes, Fidel Castro’s death is a good thing — but no cause for President-elect Donald Trump and Congress to alter their attitude toward Cuba.

President Barack Obama’s unilateral thaw in relations with Havana was a mistake. That is so as much today as it was a week ago.

Whether Raul Castro will use his brother’s death as an opportunity to change that remains to be seen.


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