[R-G] Former head of US Interests Section in Cuba hits "wrong approach"
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri May 14 15:42:39 MDT 2004
Wayne Smith headed the US Interests Section in Cuba during the Carter
The Wrong Approach
By Wayne Smith, Senior Fellow
South Florida Sun Sentinel
May 12, 2003
The Bush administration's Cuba policy has been largely
ineffectual. Its objective is regime change, i.e., to bring
down the Castro government, but it is as far away from that
goal as it was three years ago.
Castro is mortal, of course, and will at some point pass
from the scene, but not likely as the result of anything
the Bush administration has done.
And as for human rights, the Bush approach has actually
worsened the situation. No surprise there, for the approach
is entirely counterproductive. Most of us want to see a
more open society in Cuba, showing greater respect for the
civil rights of its people and permitting greater
flexibility in the solution of their economic problems. But
threats, pressures and efforts at economic strangulation
will not achieve that. On the contrary, the reaction of the
Cuban government is to circle the wagons and demand greater
internal discipline against the external threat.
We could achieve far more by reducing tensions and entering
into a dialogue aimed at resolving some of the problems
between us. But the Bush administration will, of course,
never consider that.
The new measures will not bring down the Castro government
-- far from it -- but they will cause increased hardships
for Cuban-Americans and their families on the island, and
substantially reduce educational exchanges -- exactly what
we should not want. Under the old rules, Cuban-Americans
could visit their families in Cuba once a year, and
sometimes with special permission more often. Now, they
will only be allowed to visit once every three years. For
close-knit Cuban families, that is cruel and unusual
punishment, for which it is difficult to see any real
justification. Remittances (the money Cuban-Americans can
send to their families) will continue, but under closer
The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which put
forward the new measures, complained that too much
educational travel was of a short-term nature and might
involve "disguised tourism." Hence, under the new rules,
only "full-semester study in Cuba" will be permitted.
Academic programs of a shorter duration, says the
commission, will only be permitted "when the program
directly promotes U.S. foreign policy goals."
Wanting students to stay longer on the island would seem to
contradict the commission's goal of reducing contacts. But
the fact is that almost all current study programs are for
two weeks to a month, to examine such subjects as Cuban
literature, arts, history, Afro-Cuban culture, religion,
public health, etc. Virtually no one goes for a full
semester and that would be difficult to fit into schedules
back at their own universities. Placing educational
exchanges on a full-semester basis will virtually end
Except, of course, if one wishes to organize a program
which "directly promotes U.S. foreign policy goals." But
wouldn't that be a matter of politicizing an academic
endeavor? And it could be even worse. Given that the goal
of U.S. foreign policy is to bring down the Castro regime,
might not the State Department insist that short-term
students pass out subversive literature and perhaps even
short-wave radios, urging that Cuban students and
professors tune in Radio Marti? Given the surreal nature of
this whole enterprise, not even that would be surprising.
And speaking of Radio Marti, another new measure would have
C-130 aircraft flying near the island, in international
airspace, transmitting Radio and TV Marti, thus minimizing
any jamming. This will be extraordinarily expensive and in
violation of international communications conventions.
Of course, the Bush administration has made it abundantly
clear that it gives not a fig for international law,
conventions or organizations. Indeed, one of the things
that led to the current scandal over the torture of Iraqi
prisoners was Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's stated
position that the U.S. would not necessarily respect the
Geneva Conventions, which he regarded as "outdated."
Even if Radio and TV Marti broadcasts are heard and seen
loud and clear in Cuba, the result is likely to be minimal.
Radio Marti has been broadcasting now for some 20 years and
generally heard despite occasional jamming. It has not
changed Cuban public opinion one iota. In fact,
listenership has significantly dropped ever since the
station was moved, in direct violation of its original
mandate, to Miami.
The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba was chaired by
Secretary of State Colin Powell, but its report may not
really have his support. An article in the June edition of
GQ magazine by Wil Hylton quotes Larry Wilkerson, Powell's
right hand man, as saying that a policy based purely on
sanctions rarely works, to which Hylton comments: "It
hasn't worked in Cuba for 40 years."
Wilkerson agrees. "Dumbest policy on the face of the
Earth," he says.
And with the new measures announced last week, a dumb
policy just got even dumber.
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