Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More Good News from Cuba

Cuba will OK more private taxis

Associated Press, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cuba says it will lift a nine-year ban on new private taxis, approving a dash of private enterprise on the communist-run island and potentially legalizing thousands of unauthorized cabbies who cruise its cities in classic American cars. (link)

Commentary

This latest move by Cuba’s President Raul Castro represents another break with the policies of the past. Fidel Castro, the article reports, was always vocal about his dislike of cabs, even the legal, private cabs. He saw them as evil, but a necessary evil, needed to improve transportation. He viewed illegal cabs as a threat to the egalitarian goals of the revolution.

There are thousands of Cuban car owners who risk fines, confiscation of their vehicles as well as arrest, because they work as illegal taxi drivers. The new change in policy will allow them to become licensed and operate legally. The implementing details of the new policy, however, have not yet been announced.

This is a minor step, but an important one. It is not as grandiose as if Cuba had announced they were permitting oppositional political parties, free elections, or a free press, but it does represent a positive development. This development follows policy changes that let Cubans visit Cuban vacation resorts; own cell phones; own computers; take title to their homes and expanded private sector agriculture. Communism is withering away in Cuba, whether we encourage it or not.

Unfortunately, the US is proving to be the best friend the Communist regime has. There are only two, truly Communist states left in the world. They are North Korea and Cuba. We are in a position to have influence in Cuba. We could help Cubans cast off Communism by encouraging the positive developments, such as legalizing taxis, which are currently taking place. If the US would announce the end of the embargo and do away with travel restrictions, we would see an acceleration of Cuba’s transformation. American tourist dollars would create a market for more entrepreneurship and private enterprise in Cuba. This, in turn, would lead to many Cuban people no longer dependent on the government for their well being. It would create other spheres of influence. It would create a demand for more change. American investments in Cuba would lead to the creation of the rule of law and property rights.

At one time, when Cuba was a client state of the Soviet Union, our policy toward Cuba may have been rational. That time is long past.

If President Bush wanted improve his legacy and do something that was low-risk but bold and positive he could announce that, due to the positive developments in Cuba, the US was immediately lifting the embargo. We should help Cuba rejoin the post-Communist, modern world by lifting the embargo now.

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