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US, Cuba After Castro

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CUBA watchers are pondering not whether the Castro regime will fall, but how to deal with the inevitability of it.

Officially, the Clinton administration has set up a task force, with members from some 40 federal agencies, to prepare for the eventuality and its social, economic, and political impact on the United States as well as the Organization of American States (OAS), which has functioned well in a number of regional situations since its founding in 1948.

The projected Cuban turnaround will provide a tough task. Although it seems clear that Cuba's communist experience is near an end as its 35th anniversary looms, the small but strategic island nation will soon face new challenges.

Exiling President Fidel Castro Ruz will not solve Cuba's chronic economic problems.

Pre-Castro conditions in Cuba, including meager resources, farcical democracy, and blatant corruption on the part of leaders such as Gen. Fulgencio Batista - Cuba's president from 1940-44 and 1952-58 - did not legitimize the imposition of Soviet communism on Cuba.

But the circumstances that enabled Mr. Castro to do so cried out for reform.

Many knew then and others learned later that Castro's brand of Marxism was as bankrupt in its own way as the Batista dictatorship.

Sugar was agrarian Cuba's only crop of significance in world trade, but after Castro imposed communism on Cubans, the Russian sugar daddy proved not to be of much help in keeping the Cuban sugar industry viable.

Meanwhile, the flight of thousands of Cubans to the US and the settlement of the majority of them in Florida has transformed that state. Their influence has been, on balance, overwhelmingly positive as expatriate Cubans have created their own communities and businesses.

Most of those who have prospered in the US seem committed to participating in the rejuvenation of their homeland.

Their generosity will be a significant factor in Cuba's revival. But overly optimistic expectations could result in disappointment.

It will take ingenuity, patience, competent leadership, and the help of others - the US most of all - to put Cuba back on the road to genuine democracy and economic viability.

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