Canada Has a Cigar

Article excerpt

Ever since the communist revolution in Cuba in 1959, Canada has clung tenaciously, insistently and quite vocally to the dubious notion that only close and cordial relations with Fidel Castro's communist paradise would foster democracy in Cuba.

Well, nearly 40 years have passed, and Fidel clings equally tenaciously to power - as one of the very few totalitarian dictators left in this world. Cuban prisons and graveyards are still full to bursting with citizens whose only crime was to oppose - or in some cases merely to be accused of opposing - Mr. Castro and his thuggish government; ordinary Cubans still go hungry in support of La Revolucion - and of the lavish lifestyles of Fidel and his henchmen; desperate Cubans still brave treacherous seas, and Bill Clinton's newly unwelcoming immigration policy, in search of freedom.

Canada's friendship doesn't seem to have worked its magic quite yet - which has apparently made not the tiniest dent in the conciliatory convictions of our neighbor to the north. This week, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy paid a whirlwind 24-hour visit to Cuba, the first by a high Canadian official since Pierre Trudeau went down in 1979. Mr. Axworthy's mission: To participate in what he described as "a major ongoing consultation on human rights."

Fidel made his feelings about such rights - and his sense of the relationship between his country and Canada - quite clear when on the very day of Mr. Axworthy's arrival he had an independent economist and two independent journalists arrested on a Havana sidewalk. Mr. Axworthy did, he proudly revealed, take time out from being wined and dined by Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Raina and Fidel himself on lobster cocktail, baby lamb chops and expensive Cuban cigars to bring up that incident - though he seemed not the least embarrassed to be in the midst of making political and financial whoopee with a government that thinks nothing of snatching three innocent people up and hauling them in for "interrogation".

Having received the assurance of his hosts that the arrestees had been released (the third, of whom Mr. …