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Monday, June 21, 2004

Kerry and Cuba

David Brooks writes:

Earlier this month, Andres Oppenheimer of The Miami Herald asked John Kerry what he thought of something called the Varela Project. Kerry said it was "counterproductive." It's necessary to try other approaches, he added. The Varela Project happens to be one of the most inspiring democracy movements in the world today. It is being led by a Cuban dissident named Oswaldo Payá, who has spent his life trying to topple Castro's regime.
The Varela project is gathering sufficient signatures to propose legislation to change human rights laws.
Then in the mid-1990's, he and other dissidents exploited a loophole in the Cuban Constitution that allows ordinary citizens to propose legislation if they can gather 10,000 signatures on a petition. They began a petition drive to call for a national plebiscite on five basic human rights: free speech, free elections, freedom to worship, freedom to start businesses, and the freeing of political prisoners. This drive, the Varela Project, quickly amassed the 10,000 signatures, and more. Jimmy Carter lauded the project on Cuban television. The European Union gave Payá its Sakharov Prize for human rights.
Of course Castro cracked down on this movement, hence it is "counterproductive." Cuba's communist regime needs to be opposed. Like all totalitarian states we need to work to change them. There are a variety of methods we can try to put pressure on such regimes and a healthy debate on such things is good. But when a non-violent movement is repressed, the least we can do (all parties, all Americans) is support that and criticize the regime in their violations of human rights. I hope Senator Kerry reviews his statement and repudiates it. Brooks goes on to talk about how Kerry's fondness for Realism is related to this statement, since I posted on Realism recently and I said it well I will include this excerpt in this post too:
Over the past several months, Kerry and his advisers have signaled that they would like to take American foreign policy in a more "realist" direction. That means, as Kerry told the editors of The Washington Post, playing down the idea of promoting democracy and focusing narrowly instead on national security. That means, as Kerry advisers told Joshua Micah Marshall in The Atlantic, pursuing a foreign policy that looks more like the one Brent Scowcroft designed for the first Bush administration. You can see why Kerry thinks that's a clever shift, after the arduous efforts to promote democracy in Iraq. With realism, you avoid humanitarian interventions. But if we are going to turn realist, let's be clear about what that means in practice. It means worrying less about the nature of regimes and dealing with whoever happens to be in power. It means alienating people who dream of living in freedom while we luxuriate in ours. It means doing little to confront crimes against humanity; realism gives a president a thousand excuses for inaction. It means betraying people like Oswaldo Payá — again and again and again. There's a reason Carter, Reagan and George W. Bush all turned, in different ways, against this approach. They understood that democracy advances security, kowtowing to dictators does not. Most of all, they didn't want to conduct a foreign policy that would make them feel ashamed.


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