Cuba is a very unique country with regards to government and politics. It is distinctive not only in its being the last communist country in Latin America, but also due the fact that it has and is continuing to undergo major changes with regards to government policy. Through analysis of the five criteria for democracy, and scrutiny of systems theory, political scientists can see that Cuba is on the path to momentous political change due to its rapidly deteriorating, soviet modeled, communist government.
Before breaking down the components of the criteria for democracy nd systems theory as they apply to Cuba, it is important to briefly consider the aforementioned countries history. Cuba’s current government began after President Batista was overthrown in a violent coup led by Fidel Castro in 1959. In 1961 Castro formally declared Cuba a socialist state; it is now recognized simply as a totalitarian communist state (US State dept, 3/25/10).
While the Cuba does have a written constitution allotting civil rights, it for all intents and purposes, negates these liberties by declaring that, “any citizen attempting to prevent the growth of socialism” s exempt from said rights (US State dept, 3/25/10). The constitution also identifies the Cuban Communist Party as the only party with legal legitimacy.
As one may have already inferred from these stringent governmental laws, the economy is also controlled entirely by the communist party, this however is one of the interesting points in the analysis of the Cuban political the system as a large portion of the government employed workforce is soon to be fired in favor of a move to the private sector (The Economist, Nov. 2010).
At the time of the US state departments report on Cuba, eighty-three percent of the workforce was employed by the government though as previously noted, this is soon to change. With regards to US-Cuban relations, Cuba is quite unique. The American government has had an all-inclusive embargo against Cuba since 1962, the second longest running US embargo outlasted only by North Korea (US State dept, 3/25/10).
Moving into analysis of Cuba as it compares to other world governments, let us look first at its association to the five criteria for democracy as outlined by Charles Hauss in Introduction to Comparative Government. Democracies guarantee basic individual freedoms of press, religion, association, and speech”. (Hauss pg. 23) In this category alone Cuba falls short of democracy. In 2003 fifty-two high profile government dissidents of the Cuban government were arrested (Washington Post, Oct 2010) in an apparent attempt to reduce anti-communist sentiments.
This seems a serious indicator that Cuba lacks the recognition of rights to be considered a democracy, while this is undoubtedly true, future speculation reveals a caveat to this rule. The Cuban government has recently begun to free olitical prisoners arrested for dissent, many of these prisoners have been offered a deal by the communist party in which they will be freed from captivity and there sentence annulled, if they agree to living exiled permanently from Cuba (Washington Post, Oct 2010).
While this is a far cry from the expressive freedoms enjoyed in the United States as well as most other industrialized democracies, it does present political scientists with a hint that perhaps Cuba is transitioning away from the totalitarian communist ideals that it was founded on in favor of a more democratic xtend far beyond the right to criticism of one’s government; they also include the right to practice religion freely. While religion is openly practiced in Cuba, many religious figureheads are closely monitored by the communist party (US State dept, 3/25/10).
With regards to the first criteria for democracy, Cuba falls short of satiating the requirements, however the recent promise to release incarcerated dissenters does signal potential for change in the Government’s stance on citizens’ rights. Transitioning to the second criterion indicative of a democratic government, we look o the existence, or lack thereof, competitive elections. In this department too, Cuba comes up short. In reading the background information and comparing it to historical trends discussed in class, it was easy to see that Cuba’s Fidel Castro developed in his political career much like Joseph Stalin.
Both Stalin and Castro gleaned a great deal of their legitimacy from a cult of personality surrounding them. While admittedly to a lesser extent, it cannot be denied that Fidel Castro was retained as a leader primarily due to his persona as opposed to his qualifications as a ruler. With Castro’s illness nd ensuing resignation it may have seemed possible for elections to take place alas, this was not the case. Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, currently resides at the highest seat in the communist government (US State dept, 3/25/10).
Though it is unclear who will take control when Raul steps down, (Schumacher-Matos 2010), it is obvious that this line of succession from Fidel to Raul with no election certainly defies the principles outlined for a democracy. As the Cuban Communist government has only ever had two leaders, it is hard to tell if elections are likely in the future, but at this ime Cuba decidedly fails to fulfill this component of the democratic criteria. Rule of Law is yet another of the components outlined by Charles Hauss as being necessary for the existence of democracy.
In this regard as with the previous criteria, Cuba falls short. For rule of law to exist a country must not “arbitrarily exercise power” (Hauss pg. 24). Cuba’s written constitution as mentioned above, keeps the country completely outside this premise as it provides the government the power to punish those who, “oppose the development of socialism” (US State dept, 3/25/10), however it eels necessary. There is really no need to explore this criterion any deeper as the countries written laws already create an inability for democracy, as outlined by Hauss, to exist.
As the final criterion for democracy that I will explore, Capitalism is yet another trait that Cuba lacks however, as many of the articles point out, this may be changing as seen by the radical policy change implemented by the government to eliminate a large portion of the state employed workers in favor of a transition of these workers to the private sector. “It’s a major shift towards a larger private sector n a socialist economy. ” (Peters, Lexington Institute, Nov. 2010).
While currently more that eighty percent of Cuba’s workforce is employed by the government, (US State dept, 3/25/10), the move to relocate over 500,000 workers (Malkin, Oct 2010), signifies a critical move toward a more democratic Cuba. While Cuba is not capitalistic at the present, the move to put workers in the private sector certainly transitions Cuba closer to capitalism than it has ever been before. As proven time and time again in the above paragraphs, Cuba is far from meeting any of the criteria for democracy, hat being said, the recent shifts in policy point to potential for an increasingly democratic nation.
Systems theory is another vital tool in comparing countries, of Cuba to speak freely, there is are no routes for inputs on the part of the people. Likewise decision making is equally disproportionate when compared to other countries as the only people able to make decisions are the thirty-one members of the communist party leadership (US State dept, 3/25/10). Though Systems theory is a terrific tool for comparing countries, it has little application with regards to Cuba as he communist government of this country is at the present, completely totalitarian.
Viewing Cuba in its congruence to other communist countries, many similar terms come to mind. Edward Schumacher-Matos’ article, “Easing the Impact of Cuba’s Coming Crisis”, explores the question of Raul Castro’s ability to control the “Unraveling of the Perestroika” (Shumacher-Matos 2010) . He continues to compare the potential future of Cuba to the historical outcome of the USSR’s collapse under similar circumstances. As an aspiring political scientist, this makes me quizzical about the future of Cuba’s regime.
The question seems to be, can Cuba remain a totalitarian communistic state with the current move for a more capitalistic workforce? I suppose only time will tell, but based on historical trends, it seems unlikely that the totalitarian government will be able to endure the transition. To recap my analysis; With regards to the five criteria for democracy as presented by Charles Hauss, Cuba failed miserably in competitive elections and rule of law, on the other hand while certainly far from industrialized democracies, recent developments hint at the potential for improvements in civil rights and the prevalence of capitalism.
As far as systems theory is concerned in Cuba, it is almost impossible until improvements are made In the aforementioned civil rights criterion. Finally as it compares to other communist countries, Cuba is showing signs of travelling the path of the USSR and facing collapse as Perestroika begins and the regime is restructured. All things considered, Cuba has become an immensely intriguing country for political scientists in recent years as it has begun several transitions toward far greater democratization than it had ever experienced under its former leader.