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Castro's Cuba

In his radio address to the Cuban people, President Reagan stressed themes likely to gain their attention: freedom and their difficult economic circumstances. In the long run these points may have an impact.

But Americans should realize there is little prospect of major change in the Cuban government in the forseeable future. Fidel Castro, who just celebrated his 25th year in power, still has the support of most Cubans. He has established a Marxist form of government that most Latin America specialists judge likely to outlast him.

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The President has the prospect of political gain from his Cuban address. Florida has many Cuban residents who are staunchly anti-Castro; the President is courting Cuban and other Hispanic voters this election year.

Additionally, the Reagan administration, like many before it, believes the Castro regime is a fomenter of trouble in the Americas and would like to root it out. Some within the administration assert that Cuban citizens themselves would throw out their leader if only they knew how much better life is in a democracy like the US.

For several reasons this is unlikely. Cubans already are substantially aware of life in the US: Many listen to Miami's radio and TV stations. They realize that many Cubans who have emigrated to the US during the Castro regime are living at a much higher standard.

Castro is entrenched militarily, with armed forces of over 200,000 - largest in Latin America.

And he is strongly supported politically by Cubans who remember the inequities of life under the previous dictatorship. Despite their current relative poverty and lack of freedom, Cubans under Castro have experienced greater equality and educational opportunity. They also have sufficient food and better housing and medical care - largely due to heavy Soviet subsidies.

Yet observers say many Cubans now display less enthusiasm in their support for Castro than a decade ago. What they seek is not articulated: It is as though they are wondering where their nation is headed. In this situation the US can continue to stand by quietly, as it has for two centuries, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity.

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