On Feb. 19, Fidel Castro announced that he would not seek to continue his reign as Cuba’s Head of State. Due to longstanding hostility between Castro and various U.S. presidents, the fact that he is stepping down could allow a productive relationship to develop between the two countries. However, since much still needs to play out in this transition, there are still many variables to consider in U.S.-Cuban relations.
Regardless of the number of groups outside of Cuba that have supported the democratization of the island nation, the fact remains that many Cubans have lived their entire lives under communism. Although some Cubans may seek to establish democracy and improve relations with the United States, it appears doubtful that this largely isolated country will be willing to and capable of doing so.
Before further addressing why Cuba may have difficulties in creating a democracy and reconciling with the United States, one must question if the former is needed in order to accomplish the latter. As it stands now, the answer to this question is yes. The United States’ Cuban Democracy Act, passed in 1992, requires democratic elections to be held before sanctions can be lifted. As long as U.S.-imposed sanctions stay in place, antagonism between America and Cuba is unavoidable due to Cuba’s starving economy.
The transition to competitive, democratic elections appears unlikely when looking at similar examples of attempted transitions and the political situation that exists following Castro’s departure from office.