St. Petersburg Times - Opinion
Re: Kerry’s words betray Cuban dissidents, by David Brooks, June 22.
Brooks’ good words not withstanding, now is not the time to expect a sensible policy on Cuba to emerge from the political debate. Both Sen. John Kerry and President Bush are in election mode. Their political advisers are pressing Cuba policy statements based solely on expectations of political and electoral jossling for advantage. These are directed to their political allies in South Florida and have nothing to do with policies good for the Cuban people.
More specifically, members of the South Florida Cuban elite are holdovers from the Castro revolution of more than four decades ago. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they hold sway over a bloc of voters in South Florida that could swing the presidential race one way or the other. Thus, both candidates are attempting to pander to them. This situation does not bode well for sensible policy thinking.
This raises the question, “What policy and when?”
The policy should be patterned on our policy toward China. That is, open trade and free exchange of people and ideas. This policy will ultimately lead to a strong surge of interaction with the Cuban people and amelioration of the worst repressive tactics of the Castro regime. Therefore the embargo should be lifted at a stroke, and free flow of people and money should be instituted.
When should these changes take place? The real answer is “now,” but that doesn’t take into account the political realities of the day.
The first real opportunity would come in the election of President Bush to a second term. That would allow him in the first days of his lame-duck administration to do things that he couldn’t do politically now. It would also allow four years to elapse before the next election and hopefully allow time to make real progress in Cuba and Cuban relations such that the next presidential election wouldn’t have a significant Cuban exile dimension.
If Sen. Kerry is elected, the next opportune time would be after an election in 2008 that returns him to power. That would provide him with the political cover, even though less needed, to do the same thing.
As regards the David Brooks column, the Varela Project is just a casualty of the electoral debate and will be suppressed without U.S. action. It is a sad but realistic commentary.
—John Christman, Tierra Verde
Get clear on Kerry’s position
Re: Kerry’s words betray Cuban dissidents.
David Brooks distorts Sen. John Kerry’s position on the Castro regime. Here is part of his June 5 statement on U.S. Cuban policy as reported by Friends of Cuban Libraries. Go to http://www.friendsofcubanlibraries.org/ and click on Recent News.
In this document, Kerry said: “I am committed to seeing the end to the Castro regime, which I have long condemned for its flagrant human rights abuse and political oppression.” Emphasizing the need for an international, multilateral strategy in dealing with the Castro regime, in contrast to what he called the failed unilateral approach of the Bush administration, Kerry declared his intention “to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, putting the focus on Castro’s failures instead of our policy.”
Emphasizing the need to educate the Cuban people in the values of a civil society, Kerry stated: “I also support the free flow of information to Cuba. Enhancing communication through news bureaus, people-to-people contact, effective support for dissidents and civil society, and an accessible, soundly managed, fair and balanced Radio and TV Marti can help reduce the isolation of the Cuban people.”
In response to this statement, a Cuban government publication, Librinsula, attacked Sen. Kerry as a “ferocious wolf.” Castro’s mouthpieces don’t appear to have any doubts as to where Sen. Kerry stands on human rights in Cuba. Would that Brooks and his fans had the same comprehension.
—Ben Fiedler, Seminole
Pandering to economic interests
Re: Cuba policy counterproductive, editorial, June 25.
Your concern about the Cubans on the Island who will receive reduced remittance and fewer visits from their relatives in the United States is not sincere. You are only pandering to those economic interests that wish to make some blood money by selling products to the communist dictatorship 90 miles from our coast.
You should be worried about the 11-million Cubans who suffer under that dictatorship and lack relatives in the United States to send them economic help. We are grateful to the Bush administration for its policies to obtain the liberation of Cuba, and it will show in the November election.
—Reinaldo Rodriguez, Miami