Cuba Politics

Bush administration is acting prudently - Opinion

Posted May 25, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

BY FRANK CALZON | [url=][/url]

President Bush is acting prudently to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro. In quick response to recommendations by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to improve enforcement of U.S. law, Bush ordered tighter controls over ‘‘educational’’ travel and ‘‘family’’ visits to Cuba that had become guises for vacation tourism. Equally important, he also directed the purchase of the long-sought ‘‘airborne platform’’ that will allow TV Martí broadcasts to be regularly seen and heard in Cuba.

What Bush didn’t do is also important: He did not cut remittances, leaving in place approvals for Cuban Americans to send $100 a month directly to relatives on the island.

As foreign-policy initiatives go, Bush’s actions were logical, compassionate and consistent with current law to deny Castro the dollars he needs to finance his anti-American mischief around the world and to maintain his oppressive control over the Cuban people. Bush also made clear that the United States disapproves Castro’s maneuvering to ensure that his brother, Gen. Raúl Castro, succeeds him as Cuba’s next tyrant.

Before the commission’s report had been printed or the White House responded, however, Castro apologists and administration critics began piling on. The Economist alleged that remittances from Cuban Americans would be cut ‘‘by half.’’ The Lexington Institute denounced the alleged new $50-per-month limit.

Yet the report recommended no such cuts, and Bush made no change. Most of the people discussing the report simply have not read it. Worse, copies in Spanish have yet to be made available.

Predictably Castro is lashing out at the United States and the ‘‘Miami Mafia.’’ Recently, he trucked tens of thousands of the people to another anti-American rally. Once again, the president-for-life is raising the specter of a U.S. invasion. Given Castro’s total control over Cuba’s media and its unrelenting anti-American propaganda, many Cubans—even some who dislike Castro’s regime—believe that this invasion is nonsense.

Yet Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who last August returned from exile in the United States but has not been bothered by the Cuban authorities, echoes Castro. According to Menoyo, Bush’s initiative could result in “a massive exodus and conflict with the consequent loss of lives of U.S. soldiers and destabilization of the Caribbean basin region.’‘

If Castro’s response was predictable, Bush’s response does not have to be. Bush could turn the tables on Castro. He could order the immediate deployment of U.S. aircraft to the Florida Straits to televise assurances that no invasion is under consideration and that Washington poses no obstacle to Cubans’ deciding their own destiny. In fact, the obstacle is found in Havana—Castro and his undisguised effort to impose a Castro-family dynasty.

For more than 40 years, Castro has been misrepresenting U.S. policies. Even if most of the Cubans who are forced to march in his rallies do not believe everything he says, the event itself serves an important purpose: It reminds Cubans that Castro is still in charge.

When TV Martí went on the air in 1990 challenging Castro’s information monopoly, Castro called it ‘‘electronic warfare’’ and immediately began blocking the signal. A year ago, however, an American aircraft successfully beamed TV Martí into Cuba. Having proved that it can be done, Bush is now ordering it to be done. That will give Cubans the option of changing the channel.

Castro fears the day when all Cubans—including the military, the bureaucracy and even Communist Party cadres—might watch programs that point out that the answer to Cuba’s suffering could be a plebiscite like the one Augusto Pinochet permitted in Chile or a national roundtable like the one in Poland when Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski brought together the bishops, army, government and opposition.

Castro’s hysterics deserve a response. Bush should order U.S. aircraft into international airspace to get TV Martí broadcasts into Cuba—now.

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Member Comments

On May 25, 2004, John Bomar wrote:

Mr. Calzon’ “prudent” and “logical” arguments ring hollow to those who have trod Cuban shores in recent times, something he obviously has not. 

Had he done so he would have observed the significance of the “scapegoat effect” on the island and seen how the communists use our policy of embargo to their great advantage, passing on the blame to us for their multitude of failings.  On balance, our policy of isolation, threat and intimidation far outweighs any possible benefit to liberty for Cubanos, giving evil the opposition it needs in order to thrive.

Mr. Calzon is obviously well intended.  He simply seems out of touch with life on the island today. 

Perhaps it is appropriate that those of his persuasion and argument have now apparantly hung themselves with the extra rope provided by Mr. Bush’ cruel, heartless and inhumane new restrictions of Cuban-American families.