The defection of Fidel Castro's estranged daughter from Cuba this week says as much about what's wrong with certain families as it does about politics and economics.

Castro has never publicly acknowledged Alina Fernandez Revuelta as his daughter, although the Cuban leader had a very public relationship in the 1950s and '60s with Fernandez's mother, actress Natalia Revuelta.Cuban news media weren't commenting either after Fernandez - disguised in a wig and heavy coat and using a fake passport - flew to Spain and was granted asylum in the United States.

Fernandez has been a vocal critic of her father's policies. She once called Cuban socialism "a dead-end street" associated with "economic collapse and food shortages."

Many children reject the thinking of their fathers, and some even leave home to get away from what they perceive as the parent's heavy-handedness. The fact that this can happen to so prominent a figure as the leader of the last communist nation in the Caribbean is not surprising.

A month ago, Cuban athletes were the ones fleeing Castro's brand of socialism. They left with little more than their memories of their nation's political and economic failures. Castro should have expected more defections.

When his Soviet benefactors disappeared several years ago, Castro started to warm up to his long-time enemies - including the United States. His overtures to Washington continue to be rebuffed, while other nations - notably Mexico - have moved ahead, if cautiously.

Castro needs an infusion of money, trade, talent and respectability. Maybe his daughter's defection will send a wakeup call to set his house in order. But don't count on it.

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