From: "Pedro Martori"
Subject: "the city generally resembles a war zone"
charset = "UTF-8"
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 12:46:49 -0500
NNTP-Posting-Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 12:51:58 EST
Organization: Bell Sympatico
Asunto: "the city generally resembles a war zone"
Fecha: Sunday, October 27, 2002 12:55 PM
U.S. works for regime change in Cuba, too
Wed Oct 23, 7:31 AM ET
Bill Sternberg USA TODAY
HAVANA -- James Cason, the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, served up a
surprise along with the mojito rum drinks to a group of American
newspaper editors who visited his residence here last week. Three
island nation's leading political dissidents materialized on the
to air grievances against Fidel Castro (news - web sites)'s
â€¢Check out today's top travel tips! â€¢Travel Tools: Check fares,
a ticket, and more! â€¢Today in the Sky: Real-time airport weather,
delays, and travel news â€¢Travel deals, news, and features
your inbox. Click here to sign up!
The meeting was part of the Bush administration's relatively
unpublicized effort to promote regime change in Cuba.
officials aren't considering a military operation like the one
planned to oust Iraq's Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) -- or,
matter, like the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to depose
But, much to the annoyance of Cuban leaders, U.S. officials have
working inside Cuba to promote democracy and end Castro's 43-year
Their efforts have irritated U.S.-Cuban relations just as Castro
engaged in what has been called a ''charm offensive'' aimed at
the United States to drop its four-decade ban on tourism and
U.S. diplomats' activities, which have increased during the Bush
* Encouraging dissidents. Oswaldo Paya, among those who met with
editors, is an unassuming medical equipment technician who's
a referendum on freedom of speech, creation of small businesses
amnesty for political prisoners. Paya's petition drive, known as
Varela Project, has attracted international attention and more
11,000 signatures in Cuba. It has rattled Cuban leaders, who have
the proposed referendum unconstitutional.
''The constitution belongs to all the people, not to one man,''
says. That man, Castro, was scheduled to meet with the editors
canceled at the last minute because, an aide said, he had too
* Distributing radios and books. Officials at the U.S. Interests
Section, as the 51-person diplomatic mission here is called, have
out more than 1,000 short-wave radios to Cubans. The radios, paid
American taxpayers, allow listeners to pick up signals around the
particularly Radio Marti, the anti-Castro station financed by the
The $10 kits contain a receiver made in China, batteries, a
earphones and a pamphlet of sayings by Jose Marti, the
Cuban national hero. The diplomats also give away books in
* Supporting anti-government journalists. Cuban reporters who
for the state-controlled press are being allowed to use computers
Interests Section to access the Internet and e-mail dispatches to
publications outside Cuba. Claudia Marquez Linares, 25, says she
other independent journalists are permitted to use the computers
week for an hour.
''People are hungry for the opportunity to read'' information
beyond the government line, she says.
The U.S. personnel here acknowledge that, especially since the
the Cold War, it's unusual for U.S. diplomats to try to undermine
government in the country where they're posted. Cuba, Cason
''a different place.'' U.S. policy, he says, is to help the Cuban
make a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy.
Not surprisingly, Cuban government officials are agitated about
they regard as the U.S. officials' improper intervention in their
internal affairs. ''Have they contributed to democracy in Cuba?
not their task,'' snaps Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez
not Cuba's job, Roque adds wryly, to ensure clean elections in
Nevertheless, because of their interest in getting the U.S.
lifted, the Cubans aren't retaliating for the time being against
diplomats or the dissidents, although some of the radios have
seized. If tourism is opened up, Cuban officials say, as many as
million Americans a year would visit, bringing with them the
needed to assist the cash-strapped Cuban economy.
''We believe that if Americans were allowed to get to know Cuba
. . . a
huge number of Americans will come,'' says Nilo Diaz Fundora,
of the regional assembly in Matanzas, the province containing
the island's nicest beaches.
If those tourists were allowed to come to Havana, they'd likely
shocked by the deterioration of this capital city of 2 million.
for some new hotels and recent improvements in the old Havana
the city generally resembles a war zone. Thousands of buildings
crumbling or desperately in need of paint. The transportation
an amalgam of Fords and Chevys from the 1950s, Soviet-era Ladas,
scooters, bicycles and aging buses.
As befits the last communist regime outside East Asia, there is
21st-century commercial district. Instead of consumer products,
billboards feature slogans and heroes, particularly Che Guevara,
the 1959 revolution. Beggars and prostitutes solicit guests
Cuba's economic straits since Soviet subsidies ended more than a
ago have forced Castro to look northward for the dollars and
that his revolution spurned. In recent months, he has hosted a
former president Jimmy Carter, a food fair for U.S. businesses
to sell products to Cuban consumers and a symposium on this
anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. He also was interviewed
Castro's outreach has made some headway in Congress. The House of
Representatives voted 262-167 in July to lift restrictions on
Cuba. (Under the current ban, only academics, journalists,
and people visiting close relatives can visit legally.)
Even if the Senate goes along, President Bush (news - web sites)
hard-line advisers on Latin America are resisting Castro's
Ending the tourism ban, the White House says, would give ''a
hand to a desperate and repressive regime.''
Because of the political clout of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in
Florida, no major breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations appears
until after the 2004 elections -- or until Castro, 76, disappears
the scene. What the dissidents refer to as the ''biological''
to regime change could take years.
''The bad news,'' CIA (news - web sites) Director George Tenet
say, ''is Castro has a great gene pool, and he's stopped smoking