Monday, November 06, 2006

Oppenheimer: Brazil won't publicly push for change in Cuba

Interesting column from syndicated columnist Andes Oppenheimer today. Some excerpts:

When Castro finally goes, at least half-a-dozen countries in the region will include a line in their respective condolence statements noting that his death closes an era in Cuba's history and should open another.

Some of them, like Costa Rica and El Salvador, may openly ask for democratic freedoms. Others, like Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile, are likely to do the same with various degrees of diplomatic camouflage.

But last week, after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's landslide re-election, I asked his top foreign-policy adviser, Marco Aurelio Garcia, whether Brazil will join the group of countries that will ask for a political opening in Cuba. His answer was a clear "no."

"I am absolutely convinced that outside pressures are very bad," said Garcia, who is often portrayed in the Brazilian press as Lula da Silva's liaison with Cuba and Venezuela. "And that's more the case in a country (like Cuba) that has a very strong national sentiment."

How do we know what Cuba's national sentiment is? I asked. There hasn't been a free election there in more than four decades, and there is no freedom of expression, I argued.

Garcia is right in that heavy-handed pressures would backfire, but respectful suggestions from Latin American countries that Castro's death opens the door to a new period in Cuba's history, accompanied by offers of economic aid linked to a political opening, would surely help.

An old saying from the 1910-17 Mexican Revolution goes: "No general can resist a $50,000 cannonade." Well, I think it will be hard for Cuban generals to resist a $5 billion cannonade from the international community to rebuild Cuba on the condition that it ceases to be a police state.
Well we know who the friends of Cuban freedom are who they aren't. Hopefully the future democratically elected leadership of Cuba will remember too.

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