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The Cuban Revolution Is Over

Walter Russell Mead

The Cuban revolution may be over, but the dictatorship lives on. A new survey explored in the New York Times offers a telling look at the gap between the hopes of average Cubans and the priorities of the ruling elite:

A hunger for economic opportunity. An embrace of tourism. Hope in a new era of normalized relations with the United States.

These are some of the predominant sentiments expressed in a rare survey of 840 Cubans conducted in the country late last year by an independent research group, asking for opinions on topics from free speech to diplomatic ties to crime. […]

And yet Cubans seemed to have little faith in their government’s capacity to deliver on those goals. Only three in 10 felt the economy would improve in the next three years. And just 13 percent said the current economy was good or excellent. Three-quarters of Cubans believed they must be careful in saying what they think, at least sometimes.

The survey offers other revealing data: over half of Cubans polled want to leave the country, with a whopping 70% expressing a desire to move to the U.S. This is, of course, a stark rebuke to the Castro legacy and Fidel’s dream of a nationalist, independent Cuba free of American influence. Indeed, to the extent that the survey reveals agreement with the current Cuban leadership, it is for policies of compromise that the Castros only adopted out of economic necessity: the survey registers broad support for normalization of relations with the United States and an expansion of American tourism, for example.

What the survey does not provide is any evidence whatsoever that the tired revolutionary rhetoric of the bureaucrats and time-servers in the Havana ministries has any echo among the people. But there is also no evidence that they plan to allow the people to have a say in what Cuba’s future will be.

How many decades of economic failure does a government have to accumulate before it admits that it is time for somebody else to have a shot?

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