That is the true legacy of Fidel Castro — that he was able to institutionalize his dictatorship so it would survive him.
There is a real danger that we will now fall into the trap of thinking Fidel’s death represents material change in Cuba. It does not. The moment to exert maximum pressure would have been eight years ago, when his failing health forced him to pass control to his brother Raul. But, rather than leverage the transition in our favor, the Obama administration decided to start negotiations with Raul in the mistaken belief that he would prove more reasonable than his brother (an unfortunate pattern they repeated with Kim Jong-un, Hassan Rouhani, and Nicolas Maduro). Efforts to be diplomatically polite about Fidel’s death suggest the administration still hopes Raul can be brought round.
All historical evidence points to the opposite conclusion. Raul is not a “different” Castro. He is his brother’s chosen successor who has spent the last eight years implementing his dynastic plan. Unlike Cuba, however, the United States has an actual democracy, and our recent elections suggest there is significant resistance among the American people to the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement towards hostile dictators. We can — and should — send clear signals that that policy is at an end. Among other things, we should halt the dangerous “security cooperation” we have begun with the Castro regime, which extends to military exercises, counter-narcotics efforts, communications, and navigation — all of which places our sensitive information in the hands of a hostile government that would not hesitate to share it with other enemies from Tehran to Pyongyang. And we should insist that no United States government official attend Castro’s funeral unless and until Raul releases his political prisoners, first and foremost those who have been detained since Fidel’s death. I hope all my colleagues will join me in calling for these alterations.