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Analyst Rejects Notion of Major Changes Anytime Soon in Cuba

A leading United States expert on Cuba Tuesday unveiled a new book examining prospects for U.S.-Cuban relations in the years ahead. Scholar and policy analyst Mark Falcoff rejects the notion that after Fidel Castro Cuba will become a free market democracy.

Mr. Falcoff argues that Cuba has changed fundamentally during Fidel Castro's over four decades of communist rule. U.S. links with Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean islands located just south of Florida, have been severed since shortly after Cuba's 1959 revolution.

In his book Cuba the Morning After, Mr. Falcoff assumes that eventually the U.S. trade embargo will be lifted. But he doesn't see normalized bi-lateral relations anytime soon. "Undoubtedly, it would throw Castro on the diplomatic defensive if there were a U.S. embassy in Havana. And probably the U.S. could get the Europeans to take even stronger action [in support of human rights] than they're able to do now," he said. "But in any event the embargo is not going to be lifted right away. And certainly as long as Fidel Castro is there it won't be, if for no other reason than I'm convinced he doesn't want the embargo lifted." According to Mr. Falcoff, the large Miami Cuban exile community is increasingly divided on the wisdom of maintaining the embargo it once so forcibly promoted. Remittances from Cuban exiles most of whom are in south Florida are second only to tourism and ahead of sugar as Cuba's largest source of foreign exchange.

Mr. Falcoff writes that with Mr. Castro now 77 years old a transition to a post-Fidel Cuba is already underway.

"But it's not a transition to a free market and a democracy," he said. "It's a transition towards a kind of family rule with Raul [Fidel's brother who heads the armed forces] and some of his family Raul is taking over key positions in the tourist industry and in other ministries."

Mr. Falcoff, a fellow at Washington's American Enterprise Institute, foresees a continuation of totalitarian rule in a Cuba that has grown considerably poorer since huge Russian subsidies were halted a decade ago. Cuba today, he says, is poorer than at any time in its modern history and unable to feed its people.

Mr. Falcoff says democracy may be slow to take hold in Cuba because the government has so thoroughly suppressed the pro-democracy movement. He explains: "If you don't even know about a movement, if the regime is so suffocating in its control of the media and the knowledge that people have, it's hard to imagine that one day Castro dies and the next day his brother realizes he can't hold it together, and the day after, these people most Cubans have never heard of, suddenly emerge and take over and provide an alternative."

Tired of a failed revolution, Mr. Falcoff says many Cubans have given up on their country's future. Cuba, he says, has become increasingly like its poor Caribbean neighbors, a nation dependent on tourism and remittances from abroad.