Crack Down on Castro; Congress Must Vote to Reinforce Trade Embargo, Protect freedom.(OPED)

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Cox and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As we approach the first anniversary of September 11, we can take comfort that the entire civilized world has joined in condemning the terrorism in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Nowhere has this support been stronger than in our own hemisphere, where the leaders of every nation have joined our fight - all except one.

The Castro regime does not support the war on terrorism. According to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill in an extraordinary joint letter to Congress:

"The Cuban government has refused to cooperate with the global coalition's efforts to combat terrorism, refusing to provide information about al Qaeda. On June 8, 2002, [Fidel] Castro compared the U.S. campaign against terrorism with Hitler's Third Reich. Castro said, 'What is the difference between [America's anti-terrorism] philosophy and those of the Nazis?' "

It doesn't end there. Cuba is working with Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to undermine America. In a meeting with Mr. Khamenei last year, Mr. Castro said that, in cooperation with each other, Iran and Cuba can destroy America. He added that "the United States regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up."

Senior State Department officials have discussed publicly the threat of Cuba's bioterrorism program. As we rush to protect our citizens from smallpox and anthrax, Mr. Castro is diverting the resources of his desperately poor economy to offensive biological-warfare research and development, and selling biotechnology to other rogue states. "We are concerned that such technology could support bioweapons programs in those states," says John Bolton, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Even more than with al Qaeda terrorists based in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Somalia, Cuba's geographic proximity to the United States offers Mr. Castro's agents opportunities to infiltrate and gain access to U.S. territory and our critical infrastructure. In this connection, the current regulations on U.S.-Cuba travel are a crucial tool for law enforcement to prevent the use of bioweapons against the American people.

This week, Congress will vote on legislation to lift aspects of the embargo on Cuba. Doing so at this time would be a grave mistake. The theory of the legislation is that more travel and trade with Cuba will liberalize the regime - but in reality, virtually all of the money that Americans might spend in Cuba will go to the government. Worse, a significant expansion of human traffic between our nation and Cuba would hopelessly complicate the job of Customs, the FBI and counter-terrorism officials who are trying to protect against the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction into the United States.

Because all investment in Cuba must flow through Cuba's government, any easing of the current embargo will directly subsidize Mr. …