Castro's Curious Canadian Comforters

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 22, 1996 | Go to article overview

Castro's Curious Canadian Comforters


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Canadian government and elite opinion loved to twit the United States during the days of the Cold War because the United States allegedly favored right-wing military dictatorships. It was perfectly all right, in fact it was desirable, for Canada to support pro-Soviet socialist dictatorships in the days when the Sandinistas ruled Nicaragua and when Soviet-supported fronts were trying to overthrow the legal government of El Salvador.

But it was with Fidel Castro that Canadian governments, past and present, have had their longest-running romance. There was that poignant moment in Havana a quarter-century ago when the then prime minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, embraced Fidel Castro and greeted him as "companero," comrade, at a time when Cuban jails were overflowing with political prisoners, many of them victims of torture.

There was another striking moment in Cuban-Canadian relations when, after a visit to embattled Nicaragua, the then socialist New Democratic Party leader, Ed Broadbent, went to Havana to discuss with Fidel Castro about holding elections - not in Cuba, heaven forfend, that would be interfering in Cuba's internal affairs - but in Nicaragua no less.

And now we have the Canadian government shamelessly leading an international effort to rescue the tottering Castro regime. Ottawa, along with Mexico and the European Union, is protesting enactment of a U.S. law mandating sanctions against Cuba. The Helms-Burton law, signed by President Clinton, followed the shooting down last month of two light Cessna planes by Cuban fighter aircraft.

The law allows U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies and business executives who operate in Cuba or who "act to manage, lease, possess, use or hold an interest in" property confiscated by Cuba from individuals who are now U.S. citizens. In other words, this is an attempt to stop trafficking in definably stolen goods.

In addition, the Helms-Burton law permits the government to ban entry into the United States of foreign corporate executives and controlling shareholders who participate in the use of such property and foreign executives whose companies do business with Cuba's dictator. To put the matter bluntly, these foreign executives are acting as receivers of stolen property, "fences."

Mickey Kantor, the U.S. trade representative, says our country has the right to defend its security interests. A country, like Cuba, that once allowed the former Soviet Union to plant missiles on Cuban soil and has tried to subvert democratic Latin American governments, menaces that security. Second, said Mr. …

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