a) quoted from Julia E. Sweig, "Fidel's Final Victory." Foreign Affairs 86, no. 1 (January 1, 2007): 39-56.
Cuba is far from a multiparty democracy, but it is a functioning country with highly opinionated citizens where locally elected officials (albeit all from one party) worry about issues such as garbage collection, public transportation, employment, education, health care, and safety. Although plagued by worsening corruption, Cuban institutions are staffed by an educated civil service, battle-tested military officers, a capable diplomatic corps, and a skilled work force. Cuban citizens are highly literate, cosmopolitan, endlessly entrepreneurial, and by global standards quite healthy.
Critics of the Castro regime cringe at such depictions and have worked hard to focus Washington and the world's attention on human rights abuses, political prisoners, and economic and political deprivations. Although those concerns are legitimate, they do not make up for an unwillingness to understand the sources of Fidel's legitimacy -- or the features of the status quo that will sustain Ral and the collective leadership now in place. On a trip to Cuba in November, I spoke with a host of senior officials, foreign diplomats, intellectuals, and regime critics to get a sense of how those on the ground see the island's future. (I have traveled to Cuba nearly 30 times since 1984 and met with everyone from Fidel himself to human rights activists and political prisoners.) People at all levels of the Cuban government and the Communist Party were enormously confident of the regime's ability to survive Fidel's passing. In and out of government circles, critics and supporters alike -- including in the state-run press -- readily acknowledge major problems with productivity and the delivery of goods and services. But the regime's still-viable entitlement programs and a widespread sense that Ral is the right man to confront corruption and bring accountable governance give the current leadership more legitimacy than it could possibly derive from repression alone (the usual explanation foreigners give for the regime's staying power).
The regime's continued defiance of the United States also helps. In Cuba's national narrative, outside powers -- whether Spain in the nineteenth century or the United States in the twentieth -- have preyed on Cuba's internal division to dominate Cuban politics. Revolutionary ideology emphasizes this history of thwarted independence and imperialist meddling, from the Spanish-American War to the Bay of Pigs, to sustain a national consensus. Unity at home, the message goes, is the best defense against the only external power Cuba still regards as a threat -- the United States.
b) quoted from Theresa Bond, "The Crackdown in Cuba." Foreign Affairs 82, no. 5 (September 1, 2003): 118-130.
Perhaps the most telling interpretation of the crackdown is Castro's own: that it was the action of a David (namely Cuba) confronting the Goliath to the north.
to be continued......