CLINTON MUST TRADE HIS CUBA POLICY
(LPP Archive - The Best Way To Feel The Touch! ) - Saturday, May 6th 1995, 2:34AM
WITH YET ANOTHER policy shift on Cuban immigration, President Clinton again has demonstrated his propensity to flip-flop like a flounder hauled onto a Florida dock. By granting U.S. entry to 20,000 Cubans he had detained at Guantanamo Bay then vowing that all future boat people will be forcibly returned to Havana Clinton has managed to anger just about everybody without pleasing anyone. That could pass for leadership if Clinton had embraced the most sensible option he has: lifting the trade embargo with Cuba.
The 33-year-old embargo is a poisonous tree that yields only distorted fruit. Fights over refugees, flotillas and secret talks grow out of the outdated policy aimed at isolating Cuba. Until the ban on trade is lifted, all "solutions" are nothing more than temporary fixes that will have to be jettisoned in a crisis.
The trade ban was imposed by President John F. Kennedy at a time when Cuba was the flashpoint of the Cold War. The goal was clear: topple Fidel Castro and usher in democracy by strangling the Cuban economy. The screws were tightened with each passing year yet Castro has played Energizer Bunny.
In the U.S., however, the embargo has forced policy makers into a series of little boxes. One result was that those who escaped Castro's repressive grip jumped to the front of the immigration line, creating both inequities and resentments. An example: Haitians fleeing murderous thugs in their country never got the same open-arms welcome as Cubans.
Alas, the Cold War has ended. While signs of freedom and capitalism are scarce in Cuba, they are emerging. And more and more, those escaping are coming to America for the time-honored reason: a better way of life. That makes the current Cuban problem more economic desperation than repression. As such, it deserves an economic answer: trade.
Free trade is hardly a foreign idea to American foreign policy. Using the almighty buck to nurture budding democracies is almost routine. Consider China, which maintains its favored trade status despite the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square. American businesses also are flooding the killing fields of Vietnam since the U.S. trade ban was lifted last year. The Russian bear noshes on Big Macs.
In fairness to Clinton, even his modest dealings with Castro have brought denunciations from anti-Castro Cubans in America and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Helms is pushing for tighter trade sanctions, including on companies that trade with Cuba.
Clinton is right to oppose Helms' extreme bill. But his incremental back-and-forth on the boat people problem won't do, in part because Castro can disrupt the policy simply by turning on the refugee spigot whenever he wants. Helping Cubans improve their plight in their own country is the only realistic way to make Cuba attractive for Cubans.
Indeed, as long as economic conditions there are desperate, a new wave of flimsy crafts is inevitable Clinton's threat to turn it back notwithstanding. Even if he means it this time, the policy will be history the moment CNN shows the Coast Guard delivering a boat full of brave souls to Castro's clutches.
Then what? Another flip, another flop? Clinton should cut to the chase now: Lift the embargo.
It's all relative
State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno has had an awakening. He now concedes, "there's a perception problem. It's a serious problem, and I understand and recognize that."
The budget stalemate? No, this problem is closer to home. It's finally sunk in that the "family of New York" doesn't mean his family.
Since they took over most of Albany, GOP leaders have indulged in an orgy of nepotism. The grand tally: three brothers, three wives, three sons, four daughters, a sister-in-law, a daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law, all feasting at the public trough.
And Bruno is No. 1 in nepocracy. His slate includes a brother, son and son-in-law on the state payroll. The pattern is so obvious that even Bruno has finally issued a promise: No more of his kin get state jobs. Very wise of him.
Or maybe he just ran out of relatives?