Barely two weeks after the announcement of the Cuba-U.S. thaw, the Castro regime has made it clear to the international community that the transition to democracy will be slower than expected. The numerous arrests made since last Tuesday, when artist Tania Bruguera announced plans to put on a performance in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, confirm that the dictatorship is no longer open to tolerating political dissent nor freedom of expression.
The act, which was never set in motion, consisted of placing a microphone in the street, so that each citizen could speak freely for a minute. Ever faithful to its repressive nature, the regime reacted in such a way as is consistent with its behavior since its initial establishment. This is a sure sign that Castro sees the new international situation as a personal victory.
However, the historic decision made on Dec. 17 simply cannot contribute to the strengthening of a party that has been governing the country for 50 years. In countries like China or Vietnam, political, social and cultural rigidity imposed by the Communist Party exist alongside economic reform. With this in mind, perhaps, Castro may be tempted to situate his regime somewhere within this difficult equilibrium between political communism and economic capitalism. But this isn’t the type of transition that worries Cuban nationals, both at home and abroad.
The international community, which applauded the agreement between Obama and Castro, must now demand of the Cuban leader that he return democratic freedom to his citizens and initiate a transition that will lead to a regime capable of respecting human rights. The beginning of the end of the political blockade alone will not breathe life into the suffocating Cuban economy, which will undoubtedly benefit from foreign investments. Although essential in helping thousands of families to overcome poverty, this alone is not sufficient. Cuba needs to abandon communism, do away with its intolerant ideology and allow political opposition to participate in the construction of a new system. Faced with a first opportunity to show his willingness to cooperate, Castro does not seem to be up to the job.