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    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


    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


    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,0,3997461.story

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