President Obama's visit to Cuba well could mark the last big celebration of the communist Castro brothers' sclerotic regime. President Raul Castro is 84, and his brother, the longtime dictator Fidel Castro, is 89. As with the 1976 death of Mao Zedong in China, the passing of the Castro brothers certainly will bring about market reforms and the demise of socialism on the beleaguered island.
Indeed, some "structural reforms," as Raul Castro called them, were introduced in 2006 when he replaced the infirm Fidel as head of state, such as allowing more foreign investment and farmers to own the food they produced.
These economic reforms are essential because, as Nobel economics laureate Milton Friedman wrote, "On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself to a believer in freedom. In the second place, economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom."
Such was the experience in Eastern Europe under communism in the 1980s. Greater trade with America led to personal ties between the free West and the socialist East, playing a roll in the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of communism throughout the former Soviet bloc.
Freedom is crucial because the Castro regime continues to repress basic liberties, even arresting human-rights activists during Obama's visit.
"This is a new day," Obama said. "We continue to move forward on many fronts when it comes to normalizing relations."
Raul Castro said, "Much more could be done if the U.S. blockade were lifted."
The blockade/embargo was imposed in October 1960 under President Eisenhower and strengthened in February 1962 under President Kennedy at the height of Cold War tensions as Cuba sided with the Soviet Union.
But the Cold War has long been over and the Soviet Union dissolved 25 years ago. Cuba has more religious freedom than does China, Saudi Arabia and other countries for which there is no U.S. embargo. We urge Orange County's congressional delegation to work to end the embargo.
REPRINTED FROM THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER