Detente a Casualty of Crackdown; U.S. Foundation Closes in Protest

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 25, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Detente a Casualty of Crackdown; U.S. Foundation Closes in Protest


Byline: Tom Carter, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Washington-based Cuba Policy Foundation closed this week, claiming that President Fidel Castro's latest crackdown on dissent had ruined its campaign to improve relations between the United States and the communist-ruled island.

"All of us are appalled at the recent executions and jailings in Cuba," it said in a statement.

"The regime's sudden wholesale repression of human rights is incomprehensible as a matter of policy, and unacceptable as a matter of principle. ... Daily operations of the foundation will cease as of this date," it said Wednesday.

Since March, nearly 80 opposition figures have been arrested, many of whom have since been sentenced to 20 to 28 years in prison.

Earlier this month, Cuba further inflamed its supporters by executing three men for hijacking a ferry in a bid to reach the United States.

On Wednesday, the Cuba Policy Foundation's (CPF) entire board of directors resigned.

"This was explosive sabotage by Castro on U.S. efforts to ease sanctions," CPF Executive Director Brian Alexander said of Cuba's crackdown.

"It is clear that Fidel Castro is not interested in improved relations with the United States. You never know what bomb he is going to throw over the fence," Mr. Alexander said.

The high-profile lobbying group was formed to promote engagement with the communist island after the saga of 6-year-old shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez, who was forcibly returned to Cuba by the Clinton administration.

The group had lobbied for legislation to ease travel restrictions to Cuba and to ease the U.S. economic embargo.

It had also taken members of Congress and their staffs to Cuba on fact-finding tours to meet government officials and dissidents.

Mr. Alexander said it was particularly appalling that those congressional trips to Cuba were used as evidence by Mr.

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