THE PALM BEACH POST

Sunday, June 6, 2004

(Front Page of OPINION section)

Life After Fidel Will Mean Raul
Changing Names is No Change At All

By ROBERT WEINER and JEFFREY BUCHANAN

            The administration is still whistling in the wind about what is really happening in Cuba. After receiving the State Department's new "Report to the President: Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba", President Bush claimed, "We're not waiting for the day of Cuban freedom, we are working for the day of freedom in Cuba."   The Commission hopes for a post-Fidel fantasy where "such a liberation from Fidel Castro's brutal communist dictatorship will inspire a new political order based on national reconciliation, the rule of law, personal choice, and equal justice and opportunity for all."

It's about time for a reality check.

Washington, meet Fidel's younger brother, Defense Minister General Raul Castro.  Fidel informed the rest of the world of the coming Castro Dynasty back on June 29th, 2001 days after collapsing from heat exhaustion during a public speech.  Fidel revealed, "If they tell me tomorrow morning, ‘You're having a heart attack,' … and I go to sleep for eternity, Raul is the one with the most authority and experience."

The likely scenario is that Raul will lead Cuba after Fidel. Still the Commission Report is fixated on fictions like, "Leaders of a transition government will likely move urgently to address a number of immediate priorities." So will Raul "move urgently" to facilitate the transition towards democracy and equality? Unfortunately, he is no Thomas Jefferson. Raul's style of government is much closer to that of Stalin.  Sadly for Cuba, he will "move urgently" into his big brother's footsteps -- and if his history is our lesson, he could prove to be even more dangerous.

Consider evidence of Raul's linkages to Cuban drug trafficking. In 1993, the U.S. Attorney in South Florida drafted an indictment charging Raul Castro as a leader of a ten-year conspiracy sending Colombian cocaine through Cuba to the U.S. The Cuban Defense Ministry was declared a criminal organization. In 1987, the U.S. Attorney in Miami won convictions of 17 drug traffickers who used Cuban air force bases, MiG escorts for the smuggler's planes and military logistical support, all controlled by then Defense Minister Raul Castro, to bring over 2,000 lbs of Colombian cocaine over U.S. borders.  While Fidel has asserted he wants to work with the U.S. on interdiction, his brother has an apparent history of being less than cooperative -- a "good cop-bad cop" partnership perhaps?

According to the Commission report's proposed scenario, the first move of the transitional government would be to free "political prisoners."  It's safe to assume Raul has different ideas for political prisoners.  Let's not forget Raul's role in what the Commission calls "the most significant act of political repression in Latin America in a decade." In March-April 2003 seventy-five human rights activists and journalists were jailed for their criticism of the military and the regime.  Amnesty International has confirmed three have already been executed with as many as fifty-five facing possible death sentences.  His government will continue to rule by fear and there is little reason to believe the US government can change this.

The commission does acknowledge the possibility of Raul's succession and states a longstanding policy not to deal with a government with Raul at the head.  But rhetoric is cheap. If we think that stating U.S. policy will stop him from coming to power, guess again.  Fidel rules the country, Raul is his successor, and Cubans will have to wait for freedom. 

Our State Department and the political gurus in the White House must not send Florida and America myths about the future. To be realistic, foreign policy needs to focus on what Raul Castro really means to Cuba after Fidel because sadly, government under Raul is the real future of Cuba. 


(Robert Weiner was spokesman for the White House National Drug Policy Office from 1995-2001. Jeffrey Buchanan was Chairman of the John Hopkins University's Charles Village Foreign Policy Forum)


PBP
PBP

If Raul is to be Cuba's leader, step up pressure
Letter to the Editor, June 27, 2004

    I congratulate Robert Weiner and Jeffrey Buchanan for the article "Life after Fidel will mean Raul" (Opinion, June 6). The Cuban people have been living in oppression, hunger and misery under the communist regime for 45 years, with every vestige of human rights wiped out, and have been dominated every day by the fear of being denounced, killed or imprisoned.

    The embargo against Cuba was designed not to bring down the communist government but in retaliation for Castro's theft of $2 billion worth of American-owned property and businesses, which never has been repaid.

    The likely scenario on the island after Fidel's death is that the cruel Raul will gain power. His style of government is much closer to that of Josef Stalin, and he could prove to be more dangerous than his brother, considering evidence of links to Cuban drug trafficking in this country.

    It is well known that the United Nations, like the Organization of American States, has proven to be useless in opposing most real threats to human rights and freedom around the world, so if the future of the Cuban people is to live under Raul's tyranny, there is no other way to get rid of communism in Cuba than for the democratic nations to wake up and exert firm and strong pressure against that kind of terrible doctrine.

    Cubans have the right to be free and independent, so let's give them an opportunity to fight for their country and to live in freedom and liberty.

ARMANDO ACOSTA
West Palm Beach