Monday, August 14, 2006

Hitchens on Cuba

The frustratingly brilliant Cristopher Hitchens (frustrating because he's an avowed leftist but a brilliant writer and orator) has written a piece about Cuba. And in typical Hitchens style I agree with much and disagree with much. I'll post the excerpts I agree with. The rest can be had here.

The even more grotesque fact that power has passed from one 79-year-old brother to a "younger" one who is only 75 may have assisted in obscuring the obvious. So may the fact that—continuous babble about his "charisma" notwithstanding—Fidel Castro has never taken off his uniform (except for the tailored suits he dons for appearances at international conferences) since the day he took power. Even my distinction between the army and the party may be a distinction without much of a difference. Cuba has been a garrison state run by a military caudillo for most of the past half-century. More than anything, the maximum leader always based his legitimacy on his status as commander in chief. The dynastic succession of his brother only formalizes the situation. As was once said of Prussia, Cuba is not a country that has an army but an army that has a country.

Nor does this army confine itself to the stern questions of political and military power. Under the stewardship of Raúl Castro, it has extended itself to become a large stakeholder in the few areas of the Cuban economy that actually make money. A military holding company known as "La Gaviota" oversees perhaps as much as 60 percent of Cuban tourist revenues. Large farms and resorts are operated by serving and retired officers reporting to Raúl, and according to the Depalma/McKinley story, he has also "sent officers to business schools in Europe to learn capitalist management techniques."

The new pretender, once again, is much less flamboyant and impressive. If we cannot yet say that Castro is dead and we cannot decently say "long live" to the new-but-old Castro, we can certainly say that the Castro era is effectively finished and that a uniformed and secretive and highly commercial dictatorship is the final form that it will take.

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