Life after Castro

Cuban President Fidel Castro has resigned. His departure from power ends a half-century of one-man rule and defiance of U.S. policies aimed at hastening his exit.

But should Castro’s resignation prompt a change in U.S-Cuban relations? Should U.S. policymakers seize on Castro’s exit to end the 45-year-old embargo? Or does Castro’s transition out of power mean more of the same?

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, moderators of, weigh in.

Ben Boychuk:

Fidel Castro’s “resignation” changes nothing. The longest dictatorship in the history of the Western Hemisphere endures, with Fidel’s brother, Raul, firmly in command. The aim of U.S. policy toward Cuba was and should remain “regime change”: democracy must replace communist tyranny — especially in a country 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

Castro’s admirers — and he has many in the United States — praise his accomplishments in the face of active U.S. opposition. It’s true that Castro raised the level of literacy among Cubans to 99.999 percent. Today, Cubans are free to read state-approved propaganda. He delivered universal health care to his people. Now Cubans can expect to live long lives in service of a dictatorship. He was a steadfast proponent of socialist revolution. Tens of thousands of Cubans, Colombians, Uruguayans, Venezuelans and Angolans had the privilege of dying for the cause. But, to be kind, Castro did wonders for Miami’s economy.

On Tuesday, more than 100 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touting the resignation as reason for rethinking the U.S. trade embargo, as if Raul represents a fresh start. Fact is, the secret police remain on the job. The political prisons have not flung open their gates. Castro’s legacy remains intact. This is no time to reward Havana.

Joel Mathis:

Fidel Castro won. Again.

After decades spent eluding U.S. attempts to end his rule, Castro spoiled America’s plans one last time: Rather than die in office and set off the expected struggle for Cuba’s future, he handed power to a chosen successor — and made the dream of a post-communist future more distant and complicated than ever. America sits on the sidelines, gritting its teeth, powerless as ever to assist the island in a democratic fresh start.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. By that standard, the United States is positively delusional: Embargoes, threats and (yes) assassination attempts over the past half-century have made Cuba’s people poor and isolated, but left its dictators as entrenched as ever. Some experts believe American policy has, perversely, strengthened the communist regime.

So open things up. Let American farmers sell their wheat to Havana. Let exiles in Florida send money to their relatives back home. Let Detroit replace all those battered 1957 Chevrolet tail fins with newer-model cars. Then sit back and see what happens.

It might not work. But we won’t know until we try — and we certainly can’t do much worse.