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Volume 61 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: CUBA


JUAN M. DEL AGUILA, Associate Professor of Political Science, Emory University


Much of the literature on Cuban politics continues to focus on the various policy alternatives that the political and strategic elites will face in the post-Fidel Castro era, although most of it does not break new ground. However, for this period, several texts do stand out in terms of the lucid analysis, the range of issues raised, and the historical importance of the topics covered.

De la Fuente's superb account, A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba, provides insightful explanations on subjects of increasing interest to scholars from various perspectives (item #bi2003005549#). De la Fuente turns a critical eye toward race relations under revolutionary socialism; not surprisingly, he finds that new sources of racial prejudice, discrimination, and racial inequality developed at the same time that traditional prejudices abated.

In El siglo XXI: posibilidades y desafíos para la Revolución Cubana, Suárez Salazar offers a solid account of how the forces of globalization require Cuba to adapt to a new external environment shaped by capitalist competition (item #bi2003005562#). He provides useful data from which national and regional comparisons may be drawn.

Fernández's contribution, Cuba and the Politics of Passion, is a sophisticated counterpoint on how passion and affection constitute the "poles around which Cuban politics revolve" (item #bi2003005249#). In this work, he taps into the personal affection that Cubans show for each other in private, while remaining passionately divided over the revolution in public. He identifies this tension between passion and affection in the island as well as among émigrés, attributing most of the findings to enduring cultural values that transcend modernity and even revolutionary change.

Sweig's Inside the Cuban Revolution covers in great detail the struggle against the Batista dictatorship in 1957–58, drawing on some newly available documents, interviews, and on established scholarship and personal accounts probing the internal divisions of the Movimiento Revolucionario 26 de Julio (item #bi2003005568#). As Bonachea, San Martín, Huber Matos and others have done, Sweig explores the conflicts between the llano (plains) and the sierra (mountains), challenging some official nostrums propagated by the Cuban government since 1959. She draws compelling profiles of leaders including René R. Latour, Marcelo Fernández, and other members of the revolutionary movement, some who remained loyal to the revolution and others who later turned on Castro. Quite correctly, Sweig concludes that "a reinterpretation of the myths of the Cuban insurrection... may demonstrate to the newly surfacing constituencies that they, too, have a connection to the early history of the Cuban Revolution" (p. 187).

Finally, Kaufman Purcell and Rothkopf edited and compiled an interesting series of individual essays in Cuba: the Contours of Change, including discussions of US policy towards Cuba, the embargo, Cuba's potential as a market-driven economy, and whether fundamental change will be effected by the strategic elites in control of the government after Fidel Castro's death (item #bi2003005561#). This balanced, readable, and useful text addresses the critical issues that serious scholars of Cuban politics as well as Cubans in the island and abroad will confront.


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