Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It's Time to Strike Up a Conversation with Castro

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It's Time to Strike Up a Conversation with Castro

Article excerpt

CUBA is in a state of flux. Confronted with the end of Soviet support and an economy in serious difficulty, Fidel Castro is seeking ways to save himself and his revolution.

Mr. Castro is opening the country to joint ventures with foreign capitalists; some 185 such agreements have been signed. He is permitting the operation of free farmers' markets and the establishment of small private shops. Last month he received an old comrade turned adversary, Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, for a long conversation on Cuba's future.

Recent visitors to Cuba report that, although elements in the government resist even minor economic reforms, Castro's brother Raul sees reforms as essential if violence in the island is to be prevented. Clearly, however, such reforms - forced by circumstances - come gradually and, for many in the Communist Party, reluctantly.

Because of proximity and history, the US is inescapably a player in Cuba's future. The ultimate choice between two opposing approaches will determine what Washington's role will be.

Leaders of Miami's Cuban exile community, supported by conservatives in the US Congress, believe that change will come only when Castro falls. That fall, they believe, can be hastened by toughening the embargoes already in effect. Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina sponsored legislation that would penalize foreign nations, companies, and individuals who trade and invest in Cuba - believing that commercial activity and foreign investment continue to prop up the regime.

Inherent in the approach by many exiles in Miami is the dream that, with an end to Castro's rule, they will be able to return and establish a new regime on the island. That dream also carries the hope that Washington will aid them - with troops if necessary.

Few experts outside of Miami, however, believe either that economic measures will topple Castro or that the populace is looking toward the exiles for its salvation. Further, in the present mood in the US, the possibility of the US military helping the exiles to return is remote.

By contrast, many who know Cuba - including some Cuban-Americans - stress that the time has come to relax constraints on contact with the island and actively explore better relations. …

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