Carter Visit Was Historic; Bush Initiative
Laughable- And What About Anti-Cuban Terrorists?
Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the National Assembly
in Cuba, is Cuba's most powerful political figure after Fidel Castro.
Havana-Jimmy Carter was received by the Cuban
people with respect and sympathy. Everybody appreciated his call to lift
the embargo and his ideas about a future of peace and mutual cooperation
with the United States. He also expressed, in an unrestricted manner,
his political views, including his differences with the Cuban system.
By contrast, President Bush's speech in Miami was the same old Cold War
rhetoric. He reiterated his refusal to allow Americans to travel and trade
with Cuba, ignoring the wishes expressed by both houses of the US Congress.
He promised to continue ignoring the fact that Cuba is an independent
country, not a US colony.
Having said that, I have to acknowledge his sense of humor. I really like
his call for fair and legitimate elections being launched from Miami.
That joke is better than any on offer from David Letterman or Jay Leno.
Although in his speech at Havana University, Carter endorsed the so-called
Varela Project [a referendum proposed by dissidents on free speech and
elections-ed.], during the press conference at the end of his visit, he
apparently realized the issue was not so simple.
Perhaps he took appropriate note of comments made on that occasion by
students and the dean of the law school. The entire proceedings were published
verbatim in all Cuban media, even though the international media, by and
large, chose to ignore what was said by those Cubans present.
THE VARELA PROJECT | The so-called Varela Project is a US government
project, as illustrated by the very active and open promotion it has been
getting from US diplomats who, surprisingly, have provided details in
the Miami press of the material and organizational support they have given.
As president of the National Assembly, I must guarantee respect for our
constitution, which was approved by 98 percent of the people in a referendum,
after having discussed and modified the original draft through a long
process involving millions of Cubans.
The notion that 0.01 percent of the electorate-assuming that signatures
allegedly endorsing that petition are valid-may oblige the National Assembly
to promote fundamental changes to our institutional system and its foundation
is simply laughable. I don't know of any constitution on the planet that
would sanction such a process.
BIOTECH TERRORISM | The other issue raised in Washington on the eve
of Jimmy Carter's visit involved the preposterous charge that Cuba is
researching "biotech for terrorism." This charge demonstrates
a very simple and terrifying reality: The Bush administration has no limits
to its lack of ethics and sense of responsibility.
We challenged US officials to present one single piece of evidence to
support this charge and they have not done so. And they cannot because
there is none and there cannot be. We have developed an important pharmaceutical
and biotech industry to which we have devoted substantial resources, especially
to training thousands of young scientists and technicians.
The sole purpose of these efforts has many witnesses: In Cuba we have
practically eliminated or prevented a number of diseases that, like meningitis,
still take the lives of people in the US. We have a health-care system
that covers the entire population, something that is still a dream for
40 million people in the US. Our health indicators are well above any
other Latin American or developing country and are comparable with many
in the industrialized world. We have a program of cooperation to improve
health standards with many poor countries and are researching production
of vaccines and medications for diseases that afflict the Third World
but are not a priority for the labs of big companies in the rich countries.
We talked extensively about all this with Carter, a man really concerned
with the plight of the poor and the sick. We explored possible cooperation
with the Carter Center in providing assistance and working together in
Africa and other places.
Thankfully, Jimmy Carter helped to destroy the spurious and unsubstantiated
charge of the link between our biotech programs and terrorism. In preparation
for his visit, he met with high officials in the US State Department and
the CIA and spoke personally with National Security Advisor Condoleezza
He asked them directly if there was any Cuban involvement with bioterrorism
and got a negative answer from all of them. None of these officials has
dared to contradict Carter on this. On the contrary, they have started
Carter himself suggested that such an irresponsible lie was intended to
damage his historic visit.
BUSH IN MIAMI | Rather, the charge against Cuba seemed intended to
prepare for another visit: President Bush's triumphal parade in Miami's
Little Havana in May. This trip also has a very special significance,
but for reasons of a completely different nature than Carter's.
It is very telling that the commander-in-chief in the "war on terrorism"
chose to celebrate Cuba's independence along with some of those we consider
the more notorious anti-Cuban terrorists in the US-and their ?nancial
and material supporters.
Bomb attacks against Havana hotels in recent years killed a young Italian
tourist and maimed other innocents. Terrorists were also involved in other
actions, as acknowledged by the terrorist chieftain, Luis Posada Carriles,
in his autobiography. Mr. Posada no doubt had to excuse himself from attending
the celebration in Miami this week because he is still in jail in Panama,
waiting trial for having entered the country illegally with a large cargo
of c-4 explosives with the aim of killing Fidel Castro at a university
conference attended by hundreds of students.
While these people we consider terrorists are apparently welcomed by the
US, five young Cubans have been jailed (for spying) precisely for having
fought against their criminal plans. At the sentencing of one of them,
Rene Gonzalez, who got 15 years, a peculiar and revealing condition was
placed upon him after he finishes his term: "As a further special
condition of supervised release, the defendant is prohibited from associating
with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists,
members of organizations advocating violence and organized crime figures
are known to be or frequent."
From our perspective, it makes no sense that young Americans are risking
their lives trying to find terrorists in remote caves in faraway places,
while other terrorists are allowed to stay at their own homes in Miami
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