No country for old dictators: Fidel Castro announced Tuesday that he was resigning from the “presidency” of Cuba, citing ill health. The New York Times reports business as usual on the island, where Castro’s brother Raul, 76, who was also the head of the Cuban military, has been in charge since July 2006. Bloggers are concerned with how the news will affect America’s trade embargo and travel restrictions to the Communist redoubt.
Alberto de la Cruz at anti-Castro blog Babalu is underwhelmed: “We all know that the news of castro’s ‘retirement’ is not really news and in the end will do little to affect the lives of the Cubans on the island; the repressive machinery is still firmly in control and has shown no intention of loosening its grip. … Now that fifo is no longer an ‘official head of state,’ he is now free to stand trial in an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Lean Left doesn’t care about Fidel himself so much as the U.S. trade embargo: “The embargo is a terrible policy and it has probably done a great deal to prop up the Castro regime. It made the privation of the Cuban people seem like part of a great struggle agaisnt an overwhemlingly powerful foe. It was stupid and counter-productive, but it was an easy means to look ‘tough’.” Matt Cooper at Portfolio’s Capital feels the same: “The current U.S. position, enshrined in law no less, is that the Cuban government must commit to its own destruction before any easing can begin. That’s not going to happen. Like it or not, the current Cuban govenrment will, according to our own Defense Intelligence Agency, survive after Castro’s death. We can either be a part of helping Cuba change or we can leave it to the Europeans or worse Hugo Chavez and the Chinese.”
Otto Reich at the National Review’s Corner thinks the announcement only makes official what has been the case for months: “Fidel has not run the country since July of 2006 but as long as he is alive no Cuban will dare challenge his power. The average Cuban, as well as the leaders, are far too afraid of physical retaliation from Castro. And with good reason. In fact, I suspect many Cubans will see this resignation as a trick by the Castro brothers to see who attempts to fill Castro’s shoes.”
Steve Clemons at the Washington Note, proving that all politics are local, weighs the effects of Castro’s actions on the U.S. presidential election. He likes Obama because he promises to end our Cuba policy: “Of all the low cost opportunities to demonstrate a new and different US style of engagement with the world, Cuba is at the top of the list. Opening family travel—and frankly all travel—between Cuba and the US, and ending the economic embargo will provide new encounters, new impressions, and the kind of people-to-people diplomacy that George W. Bush, John Bolton, Richard Cheney, and Jesse Helms run scared of.”
Nick Gillespie at Reason’s Hit & Run says: “Here’s hoping the Congress and the president will do something right to accelerate a shift to freedom there. And here’s hoping that Cuba becomes a better place as Castro puts one foot into the grave. I don’t believe in hell, but I sort of hope there is a place like it for a guy like Castro.”
And Dan Restrepo at National Security, the Center for American Progress blog, writes: “Raul Castro and his immediate circle have a fateful decision to make: They can attempt to stand against the tide of democratic change, or they can play a constructive role in moving Cuba forward. It is important that they recognize the inevitability of change and begin to open the government to finally give a voice to the Cuban people. Releasing all political prisoners would be an unmistakable sign that the regime recognizes that it can no longer rely on repression.”
Read more about Fidel’s adios.
Musharraf’s end: Meanwhile, Pakistan delivered a stunning blow to Gen. Pervez Musharraf by not electing his party to a majority in parliamentary elections over the weekend. The Pakistan Peoples Party, led, until her death, by slain political reformist Benazir Bhutto, took 80 out of 242 seats, and the Pakistan Muslim League-N took 66. After a nationwide election said to be free of rigging or irregularities, Musharraf has accepted defeat, leading the Pakistani blogosphere to wonder what’s next for the troubled country.
Hasan Mubarak at Metroblogging Lahore is amazed that Musharraf’s party members even lost among their own constituencies, citing a list of specific races. He concludes: “Looking at the present state of PML(Q)’s falling frontiers, we can surely understand all was not lie in the government’s claims of holding free and fair elections; another omen for strongly needed change and progress of democracy in Pakistan.”
Ghazala Khan at the Pakistani Spectator warns that the “nation has to play a very vigilant part. They have done their half part by rejecting the forces of status qou, and they now need to see that their leaders don’t get it wrong, and do what they told them that they would do once in power.” Pak Tea House also observes: “These elections are also a slap on the face of the global corporate media (and their backers, the global military machine) that had painted Pakistan as a breeding ground for Islamic extremism and dare I say terrorism.”
Sepia Mutiny is more skeptical and worries that another military coup might occur: “More than ever, Pakistan needs a strong central government, especially to help combat the rising terrorist state within a state in its western provinces along the Afghan border. This new illiberal democracy we may be seeing the birth of may only exacerbate the situation there. As the different parties fight for control, terrorists and sepratists have some cover to pursue their own agendas.”
Read more about Pakistan’s elections.