Castro's death expected to help facilitate Cuban openness

Castro's death expected to help facilitate Cuban openness

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Cuban-Americans in Florida are expected to continue celebrating the death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for several days, while residents of the island nation observe a state-mandated nine days of mourning. After that, the focus is expected to shift to a post-Castro country and how policies and relations with Cuba are expected to change.

Texas Tech political science professor Iñaki Sagarzazu said Castro's shadow and his defiance to American interests on the island was one of the main things keeping the nation locked out of most diplomatic proceedings. Castro waged a 50-year "war" against the United States, including sending waves of refugees to South Florida, and that mindset -- albeit diminished -- carried over into the current president's tenure. With the symbol of Fidel Castro's reign gone, Sagarzazu said he expects Cuba to now be more open to diplomatic relationships with the country's long-time enemy.

"It allows Raúl Castro to continue the opening process of the Cuban economy and politics," Sagarzazu said, "even if not completely making a democracy, but it allows for some more opening -- which, from what I've read in the past, Fidel Castro was not particularly fond of."

Sagarzazu said, since Raúl Castro intends to step down in 2018, he expects there to be at least some type of change once the last Castro is out of power.

"I think all that will, if not open Cuba to a democratic regime," he explained, "it would certainly allow its economy to start being more independent and to start growing, and maybe would allow some sort of political dissent in the island."

Sagarzazu said Castro's death will have a long-standing effect on Latin American government, as well, ending the reign of far-left regimes in the Western Hemisphere the same way Chile's Augusto Pinochet ended ultra-conservative dictatorships.

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