Fidel must be laughing his way to the grave. Let’s just admit it…he won. Cuba was readmitted to the Organization of American States (with U.S. support) yesterday, and Cuban-inspired guerrilla groups – now legal political parties – have now won the presidencies of both El Salvador and Nicaragua. All of this was impossible during the Cold War. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, U.S. policymakers have tried to isolate and eliminate what they deemed a threat to America's influence over the Western Hemisphere. Since the late 1800s, Washington had freely intervened in the region, ensuring American business interests were secure. Cuba directly challenged this policy by nationalizing foreign businesses holdings and allying itself with America’s arch nemesis, the U.S.S.R. But inspiring a generation of Latin Americans now taking power throughout the hemisphere – along with maintaining his regime decades after Cold War ended – could be considered Castro’s greatest feats. Once the hemisphere’s pariah state, Cuba is being brought back into the fold, with Castro now seen by many leaders in the Americas as one of the region’s elder statesmen. Over four decades of U.S. containment has proved to be a failure. The only thing left is the embargo. Critics do point, rightly, to Havana’s poor human rights record as a precondition for normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations. But considering the efficacy of the last 40 years, it might be time for a change. Engagement with the island nation may allow for greater improvements. Repression seems more absurd when faced with kindness.
Adam Case, a former In These Times editorial intern, is a San Diego-based I.W.W. organizer and freelance writer. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, encountering guerrillas, intellectuals and change-makers. But most of the time he tries to indulge his passions, which include surfing, social justice and a good Philly Cheesesteak.