The administration still is whistling in the wind about what really is 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 Gen. Raul Castro.
Fidel informed the rest of the world of the coming Castro Dynasty back on June 29, 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 such fictions as, "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 toward 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 link to Cuban drug trafficking. In 1993, the U.S. attorney in South Florida drafted an indictment charging Raul Castro as a leader of a 10-year conspiracy sending Colombian cocaine through Cuba to the United States. 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 planes and military logistical support, all controlled by Raul Castro, to bring more than 2,000 pounds 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, 75 human rights activists and journalists were jailed for their criticism of the military and the regime. Amnesty International has confirmed that three already have been executed, with as many as 55 facing possible death sentences. His government will continue to rule by fear, and there is little reason to believe the U.S. government can change this.
The commission does acknowledge the possibility of Raul's succession and states a long-standing 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.
The State Department and political gurus in the White House must not spin 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.
Weiner and Jeffrey Buchanan wrote for the Palm
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.