The Cuban Communist Party’s response to the rescue of several FARC hostages, including three Americans, is being interpreted by some supporters of easing sanctions on Cuba as a sign that the Cubans want better relations with the U.S. Before any such politically-motivated malarkey gains a toe-hold in this town, a reality check is in order.
A few days after the successful hostage rescue by the Colombian Armed Forces, the Cuban Communist Party issued a statement in the name of Cuba’s former head of state, Fidel Castro. In it, the Party stated it was “happy” that the hostages had been rescued, admonished the FARC for holding hostages to begin with, yet also urged the FARC-People’s Army not to lay down arms. This latter point has been lost upon opponents of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
The Cuban Communist Party statement praising the hostage rescue is but another feeble attempt by the Party to recast Raul Castro as a kinder and gentler leader, one determined to show a new side of Cuba worthy of recognition by its long-time nemesis, the United States. This quixotic side-show shall fail. So, you ask, why take a jab at their Colombian acolytes?
Cuba wants to come off the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list. On the list since 1982, Party planners see the benefits fellow state sponsor of terrorism North Korea may reap from its removal from the list and Cuba wants to get in on the action. Last month, I detailed some of the reasons why Cuba’s place on the list is well-deserved and why it should remain on it for the foreseeable future. You can read it here.
Raul Castro is just as ruthless as his brother, he can just hide his anger and hate of the U.S. much better than Fidel ever could. No matter what they may say in public about the economy or regional events, Cuba’s leaders may be changing but the aims of the Party remain the same. For example, while they praised the hostage rescue, Raul Castro was meeting in Havana with the Information Minister of fellow state sponsor of terrorism, Syria. Just last month, Iran and Cuba signed a cooperation agreement to increase trade and cooperation - including biotechnology work - between the two state sponsors of terrorism.
At another level, Cuba’s current leaders are simply scared and looking for a way out. It is too little, too late for that. Even if we did not act upon it, the U.S. should have indicted Fidel Castro in U.S. federal court for the murder of three American citizens in 1996 when the Cuban Air Force shot down two small civilian planes over international waters. Cuba’s current leaders know that it is but a matter of time when the people of Cuba will take back their country from the Communists and, at that time, they, too, shall demand justice for decades of crimes against the Cuban people. An indictment of Fidel Castro will send a powerful message to Cuba’s current leadership that we mean business.
Cuba’s leaders are buying time. It is not changing, but using regional events such as the hostage rescue as political sideshows to distract from Cuba’s reality. It is also waiting for the November 2008 elections to see who will occupy the White House and hoping it will be Sen. Barack Obama, not Sen. John McCain. In the few months it has remaining, the Bush Administration should seriously challenge the Cuban Communist Party and respond to these missives forcefully and clearly. It should also indict Fidel Castro for the murder of those three young Americans, and lay a foundation that the people of Cuba can use once freedom takes control of that island nation.