Fidel Castro’s Cuba turned 50 on New Year’s Day, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, and its golden anniversary should serve as “yet another reminder of wrongheaded U.S. policies” that have “unwittingly” shielded the island nation from history. While the U.S. pursued “more contact and exchange” with the rest of the communist world, with great success, its virtual Berlin Wall between Florida and Cuba “incomprehensibly” remains intact.

It is long past time to scrap our “utterly ineffectual” Cuba policy, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. President-elect Obama’s pledge to lift family travel restrictions and remittances to Cuba is “an important first step,” but it is in “our national interest and, ultimately, in Cuba’s,” to bring the ripe-for-change nation fully “back into the fold.”

It’s hardly our fault that Cuba became “a laboratory experiment” proving the utter failure of communism, said John Hinderaker in Power Line. “Propagandists” tout Cuba’s “‘free’ health care,” but everything’s “free” in a “slave society.” Cubans live in “abject poverty” while Castro and his cronies have enriched themselves. Sure, “for Fidel, it’s been a great 50 years,” but he “will no doubt have to die before his countrymen can be released from their long national nightmare.”

“Economic disaster” is one of Castro’s legacies, said Schona Jolly in Britain’s The Guardian. But so are “impressive statistics about free education, healthcare, and life expectancy.” And Cuba must be “smiling ironically” as the U.S. turns socialist, nationalizing banks and other industries. Cuba has some huge problems, but so does the “so-called democratic West.” Castro’s Cuba needs a new path, but the Cubans need to be the ones to choose it.