US's Mistaken Tack on Cuba

Article excerpt

UNITED States policy of non-recognition of Cuba is based upon the professed belief that Cubans should join the democratic governments in the Western Hemisphere. In testimony before Congress last July, Bernard Aronson, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, emphasized that Cuba's people should have the opportunity to choose their own leaders and form of government in free and fair elections. Toward this end, US policy has sought to isolate Cuba in the international community and use a trade embargo to pressure Fidel Castro to accept self-determination.

Unfortunately, while declaring support for a policy designed to generate peaceful democratic transition, US policy toward Cuba more likely will lead to civil upheaval. It may come in the form of a student revolt, attempted military coup, or massive revolution. A blood bath - which many Latin Americans fear will happen sometime in the near future - is in nobody's interest.

America's Cuba policy is bankrupt for at least three reasons:

First, the trade embargo and isolation of Cuba work hand-in-hand with Havana's collapsing trade and aid relations with Moscow. The tail-spinning Soviet economy and breakup into independent republics has derailed Cuba's economic ties with the USSR and produced the worst economic crisis Cuba has faced since Mr. Castro came to power in 1959.

At the October 1991 Fourth Party Congress in Santiago de Cuba, Castro detailed the long list of Soviet goods not reaching Cuba - wheat, rice, powdered milk, and many other commodities. Oil shipments also have dropped. By mid-1991, only 38 percent of expected Soviet supplies had arrived in Havana, creating shortages of food and fuel and assuring more widespread rationing - including of bread, eggs, and electricity. Soviet-Cuban patron-client relations have ended, and Havana is now on a war-footing austerity program of rationed food and consumer goods. America's trade embargo will insure deteriorating living conditions.

Second, Cuba's economic crisis is leading to declining legitimacy of Castro's regime, rising discontent, and repressive government responses to civil disobedience. Signs pointing toward increased civil unrest are blinking all over the island. Indicators of civil discontent range from escalating crime and open dissent of one-party communism to massive numbers of boat people fleeing into the Florida Straits, high-level defections, black market trading, and prostitution.

CASTRO'S government has cracked down with nationwide police operations. A Cuban poet and three other dissidents were recently sentenced to prison terms of one to two years on charges of holding "illegal meetings." "Rapid Action" groups systematically put down dissident protests, as during the 11th Pan-American Games held in Havana in August, and Cuba's school-children Pioneers Movement has called for the formation of vigilante groups inside schools to combat foreign ideas and influences. …