SPECTER AND CHAFEE: PLEASE, STAY AT HOME!
By Hugo J. Byrne
Two U.S. Senators, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee visited Cuba last week. According to the news, Specter and Chafee were on a "fact finding" trip. One of the very few "facts" they were able to find is that Castro does not mind the use of the U.S. Guantanamo base as a temporary detention center for prisoners taken from the enemy in Afghanistan. The news about their visit published by the media does not specify whether the statement was spontaneous or came as an answer to a reporter's question. In reality it makes no difference.
Who cares whether Castro approves, opposes or remains indifferent to the use of the facility for any lawful purpose the U.S. government sees fit? To our knowledge the U.S. executive branch of government -where the Guantanamo decision originated- has not requested the opinion of the aging Cuban dictator. Nobody in the U.S. government deserving two bits of respect from the American people would ask Castro such a question. That leaves us with another interesting matter: How did Specter and Chafee find out about Castro's feelings on the subject? Did they ask the anti-American tyrant? Sure they did! They spent hours with "el Presidente."
The basic matter we American taxpayers should be concerned with in regard to this shameful affair is whether or not we are financing these sorts of trips to Cuba by our elected officials. Further, we should reflect very profoundly on the ethics of such trips in times like these. At the present, America is supposed to be waging war against terrorism. Our soldiers are in harm's way overseas. In spite of the dictator's protestations to the contrary, the evidence of Castro's regime engaging in terrorism directed against the U.S. and its allies, past and present, is overwhelming. Late last year a Florida jury -sanitized of Cuban-Americans- convicted and sentenced two of Castro's agent provocateurs to life in prison. Among many other crimes against our national security, they were found guilty of conspiracy in the murder of three American citizens. Castro demanded the release of the murderous felons, calling them "heroes and patriots." Last May, while visiting Teheran, Castro vowed to "bring the U.S. to its knees."
Against this backdrop, the Senators feeble defense of their trip is the "investigation of the state of human rights in Cuba." Is a trip to the moon required to find out whether or not there is oxygen on its surface?
This is not Senator Specter's first visit to Castro's fiefdom. Specter opposes the so-called embargo, and wants the Cuban market open to Pennsylvania's agricultural surplus. The inability of Castro to pay cash, or the very poor credit history of the Cuban regime -Cuba does not pay its foreign debt since 1986- does not deter Specter, who knows U.S. government agricultural subsidies laws have enough loopholes to deliver the farming baron's bill to the American taxpayers.
Specter, who claims the best intentions on his visit to the island, discussed the "human rights situation" in Cuba with a group of so-called "dissidents."
The most prominent member of this group, frequently lionized by the American liberal press, is Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz. Professor Sánchez Santa Cruz is a former member of the of the University of Havana's School of Humanities and was able to secure that position only after Castro established his regime's total control in that learning institution. The subject taught by Elizardo was Marxism. Sánchez kept his professorial chair until 1968 when he appeared to break with Castro's regime. As a "dissident", professor Sánchez enjoys an official treatment totally different from that of other Castro's opponents. Sánchez is known for his long telephone conversations with Miami area radio stations and frequently pays visits overseas without major difficulties with Cuban government authorities. Unlike Dr. Elías Biscet, Sánchez has been temporarily detained in some instances, but never charged with any serious crime by the regime. French President Chirac some years past honored Sánchez without any obvious deleterious consequence to the latter.
Specter and Sánchez share some opinions: They both oppose the economic embargo. Sánchez claims that only Castro can successfully lead Cuba to a "democratic transition." Some dissenting!
When the U.S. is facing a situation of life or death against fanatic terrorist attack, is it sensible for our legislators to waste time and resources helping a bloody political dinosaur survive just to gain electoral points with special interests at home?
If Specter and Chafee really wanted to help the economy of their respective constituencies, they could do a much better job by staying in Washington to help the President turn back Daschle's political challenge to the economic recovery.
After all, that's the job they were elected to do.