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    Cuba, DR on very different paths

    Cuba, DR on very different paths
    By Roland Alum
    May 20, 2012

    On May 20, 1902 the Cuban Republic was born, following the
    Spanish-American War, or Spanish(Cuban)American War, that ended Spain's
    colonial rule. Coincidentally, this May 20, the Dominican Republic is
    holding its 14th presidential election since the downfall of Rafael
    Trujillo in 1961.

    It behooves us to compare the trajectories of the two Hispanic-Caribbean
    nations in the last five decades. One, recovering from tyranny and gross
    underdevelopment, took the free-enterprise path while expanding its
    freedoms. The other one endures stagnation and deprivation under a
    Marxist-Leninist paradigm.

    Instability characterized Cuba's republican era from 1902 to 1958.
    Government corruption climaxed under Fulgencio Batista's authoritarian
    dictatorship. Still, by the 1950s, the island-nation was a hemispheric
    leader in agriculture, labor rights, education, healthcare, and other
    indices.

    With tremendous initial popularity, Fidel and Raúl Castro supplanted
    Batista in power in 1959; but the pair turned Cuba into a closed society
    beset by unprecedented repression and chronic inefficiency.
    Video: Four arrested in after-school fight posted on YouTube, Facebook

    Meanwhile, the DR progressed toward the open society model. Interim
    juntas followed Trujillo's assassination on May 30, 1961. In the 1966
    elections, a former Trujillo protégée, Joaquín Balaguer, won the
    presidency and sponsored the constitution that created the present
    three-branch government framework.

    Since Trujillo's demise, notwithstanding the 1963-66 period, the DR has
    elected six presidents, all civilians from three major political
    parties. As different from the Castros' regime that habitually demonizes
    expatriate Cubans, the DR politically enfranchises Dominicans abroad.

    Recent constitutional amendments bar consecutive presidential terms in
    the DR. So outgoing President Leonel Fernández backs his Dominican
    Liberation Party colleague Danilo Medina. Medina's principal rival is
    similarly centrist ex-president Hipólito Mejía.

    In contrast, Cuba is still dominated by the unvarying
    less-than-one-percent 1959 "revolutionary" elite. This militaristic
    gerontocracy has engendered amongst hungry Cubans what anthropologists
    call a culture of poverty.

    A fair assessment of a democracy contemplates more than secret-ballot
    periodic elections. The DR has become more self-sufficiently productive
    than Cuba.

    The DR has a smaller population than Cuba — 9.3 million to 11.2 million
    people — and a smaller territory. Yet the DR's GDP growth rate, an
    average of 5.9 percent over the past five years, outperforms Cuba's 3.2
    percent. The Dominican people have been enhancing their liberal
    democracy paso a paso (step by step), although still imperfect, along
    with socio-economic progress.

    The DR enjoys a robust civil society plentiful in competing enterprises,
    free press, labor unions, and uncensored Internet access. Conversely, it
    lacks paredones (firing squads), political prisoners, labor camps,
    exiles, censorship, neighborhood spies, or humiliating rationing.

    The reverse is factual for outmoded "socialist" Cuba, in need of more
    than reforms by autumnal octogenarian pseudo-patriarchs. As numerous
    studies persuasively argue, the regimented mismanagement, not the
    watered-down U.S.'s commercial boycott, or embargo, is responsible for
    Cuba's abysmal failures.

    On this May 20, it's not Cuba's 53 years of miserable totalitarianism,
    but the quiet Dominican Republic's democratic development that deserves
    acclaim.

    Roland Alum, a former OAS anthropology fellow in Santo Domingo and past
    Dominican elections international observer, is a consultant with Icod
    Associates. Email him at rolandnj@yahoo.com.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/fl-cuba-dr-may-20-alum-0520-20120520,0,3997461.story