Falcoff, Mark, The American Spectator
UNDER PRIME MINISTER JEAN CHRETIEN, CANADA HAS COME INTO
ITS OWN AS A DEFENDER AND SPONSOR OF FIDEL CASTRO--ALL
BECAUSE IT CAN'T STAND REMAINING LOYAL TO THE UNITED STATES.
The post-Cold War period has rearranged the furniture of world politics in strange and interesting ways, but perhaps nothing is quite so bizarre as the current alliance between Castro's Cuba and Canada. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, not Spain, not Mexico, not even France-- but Canada has become Cuba's number one source of foreign investment im primary source of foreign tourism, its diplomatic protector, its chief patron and advocate. Here are just a few startling facts:
Canadian trade with Cuba has doubled or in some areas even tripled in two or three years. Some key areas of Canadian investment in Cuba are financed by "soft" credits paid for by Canadian taxpayers.
Canada intensively lobbies for Cuba's return to the Organization of American States, with no questions asked about its political regime. This is particularly remarkable given that Canada (unlike Mexico, which also favors Cuba's reinstatement) has long insisted on a political test for other Latin American countries to enter or remain in this organization.
Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien has made it known that he favors inviting Fidel Castro to participate in the next summit of Western hemisphere leaders, to be held somewhere in Canada in 2000 or 2001.
Canadian cities are awash with billboards showing happy families enjoying Cuban beaches (with nary a Cuban in sight). Canada is now the island's leading source of foreign tourists, throwing Castro's police state a lifeline of foreign exchange amounting to several hundred million dollars a year.
Sheritt International, one of Canada's largest private firms, has purchased rights to exploit a nickel concession seized from an American company in 1960 and is expanding its activities to cobalt, petroleum exploration and processing, and resort hotels-representing a total of about $1.4 billion.
Canada's state-owned television network is a major outlet for Cuban-produced propaganda films on the glories of life in Castro's gulag.
Canada is a regular contributor of humanitarian aid to Cuba, including medicines, food, motor vehicles, even paper and pencils for use in schoolrooms. Yet unlike the United States, which also authorizes humanitarian and medical aid, it does not require third-party monitoring to make sure that its contributions are not siphoned off by the Communist party's elaborate apparatus of privilege.
While many countries enjoy tweaking the U.S. over Cuba, only Canada has made support for Castro the virtual centerpiece of its foreign policy. Canadian ambassador to the United States Raymond Chretien, the prime minister's nephew, even admits that he spends as much time talking about Cuba to American authorities as he does about his own. For his part, Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy acknowledges that "Cuba comes up on our radar scope as a much higher priority than before." Canadians, he boasts, "are discovering a whole new world south of our southern neighbor."
While Canadian support for Castro has grown exponentially since the disappearance of his Soviet sponsor, it is not entirely new. Like most Western European countries and Mexico, Canada never broke relations with Havana. Castro was a hero to academic and intellectual circles in Canada from the very beginning, and has remained so long after their counterparts in France, Spain, and Italy broke ranks with him in the 1970's or 198o's over his persecution of writers, artists, and homosexuals. As long ago as 1976 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret made a pilgrimage to the island, where they went scuba diving with the dictator (whom Mme. Trudeau declared "the sexiest man alive"). On that same occasion Trudeau peremptorily signed away the property claims of Canadian citizens expropriated by the regime for a mere $850,000. …