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Posted March 12, 2006 by publisher in US Embargo

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DEWAYNE WICKHAM | Zanesville Times Recorder

Put simply, Josefina Vidal’s job is to outmaneuver Caleb McCarry, the Bush administration’s point man in its effort to bring regime change to Cuba. Vidal is the Cuban government official with the day-to-day responsibility for seeing to it that McCarry doesn’t succeed.

While squeezing the economic life out of Fidel Castro’s regime has been the goal of a succession of American presidents, the Bush administration is moving beyond that failed Cold War strategy. The 45-year-old U.S. embargo of Cuba has succeeded only in rallying most of this country’s 11 million people behind their aging leader.
That doesn’t sit well with the neo-conservatives who have a heavy hand in plotting the Bush administration’s foreign policies. Having toppled Saddam Hussein, they now are planning to replace Castro and remake Cuban society.
“To accelerate the demise of Castro’s tyranny, President Bush created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last year when she named McCarry to serve as Cuba Transition Coordinator. His job is to use American tax dollars to topple Castro’s government and replace it with one that has been conceived in the corridors of the State Department and the parlors of Miami’s Cuban-American exile leaders.

And Vidal’s job is to stay a step ahead of McCarry. As director of North America affairs in Cuba’s foreign ministry, the 45-year-old diplomat knows that Castro’s government is in a life or death fight. Two years ago, the State Department produced a blueprint for replacing Castro.

The recommendations of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba report was the basis for the tightening of the embargo that occurred in July 2004 - an action that was intended to further deny Cuba the money it needs to sustain itself.

“More than 80 percent of the measures in that report are already implemented,” Vidal said. “But they are no closer to their objective of changing the government of Cuba. That’s why I think there’s a lot of desperation among people in the United States government, and people in Miami, who were putting a lot of hope in these measures.”

The most chilling part of the heightened embargo rules is the sharp reduction in the trips that Cuban-Americans can make to see their relatives on this island. Before the new rules took effect in July 2004, they could come here once a year to visit family members. Now they can come to Cuba just once every three years - and only to visit members of their immediate family who continue to live here.

That policy does reek of desperation - and insensitivity.

In May, the commission is expected to issue another report, with new measures. “We don’t know what they are going to propose ... I’m trying to guess what they’re going to come up with.” Whatever it is, Vidal said, Cuba will find a way to thwart it.

Nearly a half-century after Fidel Castro came to power, and 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union - its longtime patron - Cuba remains a country under siege. While the United States has established diplomatic relations and economic ties with the communist nations of China and Vietnam, it continues to aggressively pursue the destruction of Cuba’s communist state.

Our policy toward Cuba borders on political insanity. It is, to be sure, an obsession born not of a desire to spread democracy beyond our borders so much as it is the product of domestic politics. How else do you explain the Bush administration’s animus for Cuba and its embrace of the governments in Beijing and Hanoi?

It is the Cuban-exile vote in South Florida, not the ballots of Chinese- and Vietnamese-Americans, that was pivotal in the election that foisted George W. Bush into the White House.

And it is the pandering of Republican and Democratic politicians to the old cold warriors among the Cuban exiles that is the real enemy with which Josefina Vidal must grapple.

Write DeWayne Wickham at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on March 12, 2006 by Bernie

    McCarry will just hang on to this job until Bush leaves the white house,
    collecting his paycheck for actually doing nothing.  He will be just a yes
    man for do-nothing C. Rice.  To this day I sure would like to know just
    what C. Rice has accomplished to earn her paycheck?

  2. Follow up post #2 added on March 13, 2006 by J. Perez

    DeWayne is correct when he says our policy toward Cuba borders on political insanity, however, having mispent whatever political capital they had after the 04 election, I do not believe this administration is in any position to carry out any of the recommendations proposed in the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. They have their hands full with the chaos they have created in Iraq. Thankfully, Mr. McCarry and Ms. Rice will be out of a job come Nov. 08.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on March 14, 2006 by CubanTony

    Bush is like the rest of US Presidents before him,one of the toughest jobs for a US President is to try to accomplish what former US Presidents did not achieve.

    Present day US Presidents are still taking orders from their dead forefather President’s!

    “The most beautiful land ever seen.” - Christopher Columbus, 1492

    “If we seize Cuba we will be masters of the Caribbean.” - Thomas Jefferson, 1817

    “I candidly confess that I have ever looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition which could be made to our system of States.” - Thomas Jefferson, 1823

    “Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union.” - John Quincy Adams, 1823

    “Cuba by geographical position must be ours.” - New York Sun editorial, 1847

    “We must have Cuba; we can’t do without Cuba.” - James Buchanan, 1854

    “After we shall have offered Spain a price for Cuba far beyond its present value, and this shall have been refused, then by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain.” The U.S. Ostend Manifesto, 1854

    “I want Cuba for the planting and spreading of slavery.” - U.S. Senator Albert Gallatin Brown, 1860

    “Once the U.S. is in Cuba, who will get her out?” - José Martí, 1889

    “Cuba would make one of the finest states in the Union, and if American wealth, enterprise and genius once invaded the superb island, it would become a veritable hive of industry in addition to being one of the most fertile gardens in the world.” - The Detroit Free Press, 1891

    “I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” - Mark Twain, 1900

    “Cubans ought to be taken by the scruff of the neck and shaken until they behave themselves.” U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, 1906

  4. Follow up post #4 added on April 27, 2011 by Rich_Haney

    This article by DeWayne Wickham, still USA Today’s top columnist, was written back during the Bush/Condi Rice administration’s most flagrant no-holds-barred effort to overturn the Cuban government to established one more suitable to their anti-Castro zealots in Miami. Wickham is sharp enough to know that if he wants inside data on what Cuba is thinking he flies to Havana and talks with one person—Josefina Vidal. She is intellectually brilliant and passionately devoted to preserving the revolution. Heading into the summer of 2011 her sole task is to out-smart the radical Cuban exiles and the U. S. government. As Wickham indicates, if at any point she fails to do that than all is lost for the Cuban government. She is that important as the one person on the island charged with determining any potential foreign threat and then deciding how to confront it. As Wickham pointed out (in contrast to what Americans are normally told), the majority on the island support Castro and the revolution)so domestic dissident problems are left to others. In 2010 Fidel Castro and his brother Raul decided there would be no effort to have someone with the Castro last name lead the revolution beyond them. Fidel met with Josefina at his home and she had dinner with him, his wife and his son Alexander. Afterward, Fidel asked Josefina if she would allow him to put forward her name (to the upcoming parliamentary session) as #2 to Raul in the Cuban governmemt, making her the heir apparent to the elderly brothers. The question startled her. Her right hand covered her mouth and tears flooded from her eyes. It was a full two minutes of silence before she responded. She sorrowly declined, believing it would distract from her job as Minister of North America Affairs, a job she considered more important because of its defense of the island. I re-check the Wickham article from time to time because, to my mind, no other journalist has discussed the Cuban issue with such intelligence, insight and courage from that day to this.

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