November was a bad month for the left. First, Hillary Clinton was defeated in the presidential election by Donald Trump. Then, Fidel Castro died at 90 after a long illness that had forced him some years before to surrender the presidency of Cuba to his brother Raúl.
So far as Cuban politics goes, Fidel might have died a decade ago. Despite the elaborate choreography arranged by the government during nine days of national mourning and the transportation of his ashes over several hundred miles from Havana for interment in Santiago de Cuba, the Cuban people often seemed to be observing the passing of the ghost of a phantasm, rather than of an immediately deceased human politician.
Everything there was to say about Fidel Castro had already been said over a period of 60 years. President Obama’s words about “the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” and how “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him” served only to illustrate how far the moral caliber of American Democratic presidents has declined between John F. Kennedy’s presidency and Mr. Obama’s. Castro was a bloody monster who sacrificed his country and his people to his evil political vision and his egomaniacal will. His own sister, herself one of his victims, thought him a traitor to his country. Cuba under Batista, though a typical Latin American oligarchy, possessed also the warmth and charm of Latin American society. Under his successor, it was one of the most miserable and benighted places on earth.
What will become of the island country after the Castros is naturally uncertain. For six decades, Cuba-in-exile and various American financial interests have been looking forward to the country’s eventual liberation and laying plans for the aftermath. Cuba, of course, still has the climate and the resources that, combined with the previously mentioned charm, had made it a kind of Shangri-La in the Caribbean. Freed from Marxist ideology, the old Cuba is sure, sooner or later, to be restored to some semblance of her former self, though “later” may be the word to stress here. To that end, foreign politicians—especially American ones, whether of the right or of the left—should keep their hands, and their mouths, off the island, though the temptation for them to intervene in its future is at least as great as it is for greedy American capitalists. There is every reason to end the futile American embargo—for many decades now, no more than a bitter expression of wounded pride—that served no sensible purpose beyond sour revenge, while preventing history from taking its course. President Trump should guard against the natural temptation to reverse his predecessor’s Cuban policy for the sole reason that it was imposed by Barack Obama. The shape of the new Cuba should be for the Cubans alone to determine.