Thursday, May 23, 2002
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THE U.S. PRESIDENT, George W. Bush, has sought to justify Washington's new Cold War agenda in relation to Cuba, America's tiny offshore neighbour. He categorically refused on Monday to lift the economic sanctions that the U.S. imposed on Cuba about four decades ago. Now, by insisting that the White House will not take the initiative to engage Fidel Castro's communist Government in Havana, Mr. Bush has simply recited some old American demands. The new backdrop though is an accusation hurled in a manner designed to produce a resonant impact on his ongoing global campaign against terrorism. The Bush administration has indeed accused Cuba of being involved in a secret programme of developing a limited but offensive capability to wage a bioterrorist war by unleashing germs. Having tried in this manner to update Gen. Castro's image as America's most proximate bogeyman in terms of the idiom and ideology of Washington's current anti-terror campaign, Mr. Bush now finds it convenient to rule out any kind of normal links with Cuba for the present. America's great debate about a small country like Cuba actually dates back to the time when that tiny Caribbean state came under communist control several decades ago. Washington's latest charge of bioterrorism against Havana marks the most dramatic downturn in their official relationship since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. It was then that the U.S. and the old Soviet Union in its status as Havana's benefactor played out the world's first major face-off over nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. While the de-escalation of the Cuban missile crisis is in itself a major saga in superpower diplomacy of the Cold War era, Washington's latest attempt to paint Havana in terrorist colours has acquired some bizarre overtones.
Jimmy Carter, now a "civilian statesman" who was formerly America's President, has certainly disputed Washington's new depiction of Cuba. Mr. Carter points out sharply that the Bush administration officials had assured him, prior to his ground-breaking visit to Havana that ended only a few days ago, that there was no evidence to implicate Cuba in any kind of terrorist agenda which might be of concern to the U.S. at this time. Mr. Carter's freelance diplomacy as Cuba's official guest is apparently designed to hasten the end of a Cold War legacy that bears the stamp of unabashed McCarthyism. In a sense, Mr. Carter rather than Mr. Bush seems to be more attuned to the reported trends in the latest American opinion polls regarding ties with Cuba. A growing number of Americans is said to favour a liberalised regime of travel to and trade with Cuba. Almost inevitably, therefore, Mr. Bush himself has now underlined that the American sanctions on Cuba might yet be lifted if that country could usher in a pluralist and representative democracy at home at the time of planned legislative elections next year.
The main argument against the political logic of sanctions on Cuba a theme increasingly articulated within American opinion circles is linked to the incongruity of Washington treating Gen. Castro differently from the rulers in China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea too. Democracy and human rights are the political principles Mr. Carter has recommended to the Cuban people while speaking to them on their own soil and praising the strides that they have made in such social spheres as education and health care. Overall, the case of Cuba deserves to be re-examined by the U.S. in the larger context of its own anti-terror campaign, whose indicated focal point is not any avowed opposition to communism itself as the governing principle or practice of statehood. However, as Mr. Bush's critics point out, he seems more inclined at present to woo the anti-Castro Cuban-Americans than to look at Mr. Carter's call to America's conscience.
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