Fidel Castro missed his 80th-birthday party in August, the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in December, and the annual workers’ parade on May 1. He hasn’t been seen except on television since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery last August. Could his apparently grave illness mean the imminent end of the Fidel era, the lifting of the U.S. embargo, and the normalization of relations with the United States? Don’t count on it, judging by Cuba’s recent actions, say Douglas A. Borer of the Naval Postgraduate School and James D. Bowen of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. And America’s tactics are making such a happy ending even less likely, writes Joshua Kurlantzick, former foreign editor of The New Republic.
The Cuban government “does not want to see the embargo lifted,” Borer and Bowen contend. The ban on trade gives Castro an excuse for the country’s poverty, and an enemy to blame it on. Although the European Union has twice successfully challenged the legality of the U.S. sanctions against Cuba before the World Trade Organization, Cuba hasn’t bothered to press its advantage. Indeed, it failed even to sign on to the cases as they were being argued. This “inaction at the WTO is potent evidence of Havana’s true policy preferences,” Borer and Bowen write.