Miriam Leitao at PostGlobal

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. She is also a commentator on Globo TV Network and runs her own blog, www.miriamleitao.com, hosted at Globo online at www.oglobo.com.br. She was awarded Columbia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize in 2005. Close.

Miriam Leitao

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Miriam Leitao is a reporter and columnist for O Globo and Radio CBN in Brazil. more »

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In Cuba, Change Has Already Arrived

The Current Discussion: With Castro gone, will Cuba become America's 51st state?

Cuban TV airs hugely popular soap operas including the American TV series, “Desperate Housewives,” and the Brazilian “Women in Love.” New Chinese buses are beginning to replace the old ones on Havana’s streets. The Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras just signed a new agreement to survey for oil in the Cuban sea. Canadian and Spanish investors are arriving with liquidity and interests. Two million tourists a year arrive in Cuba to spend their money. In Cuba, ironically, the American dollar is still a strong currency.

Those are real facts. The myth remains, however, that Cuba is an isolated and strategic island that threatens U.S. national security, because once upon a time it led two superpowers to the edge of a nuclear war. It is dangerous enough to be banned from OAS, World Bank, IMF, and IDB. All that belongs to the past. Today, Fidel Castro’s Cuba is only a shadow from this past of confrontation.

Fidel Castro’s retirement is nothing but the end of a last echo from the Cold War. The future will not happen suddenly, in a revolutionary way. Cuba, nevertheless, will not be the same. Changes will happen, inevitably.

The Cuban dilemma is to guarantee economic and political freedom to its citizens, without losing the achievements of Castro’s period such as a life expectancy of 77.7 years – equal to Denmark – or Latin America’s lowest infant mortality rate. Not bad for a poor country.

Throughout its history, Cuba has been a Spanish colony, an American casino, a Soviet satellite, and an addict of cheap Venezuelan oil. It deserves to be independent at last. Cuba has nothing to lose but the myth that transformed a single island into the centerpiece of an American regional diplomatic chess game.

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