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What about Cuba?

Gone is the notion that his eventual death will necessarily spell the death as well of Cuban dictatorship. Not a few analysts have told the press the crackdown has the purpose of squelching all opposition in a country Fidel wants to leave to brother Raul, hardly a liberty-loving, democracy-hugging, sweetheart of a guy.

Gone is - or ought to be - any lingering feeling that Castro is not really so bad after

all, just a man propelled toward Marxism by his love of the people and strong sense of social justice. This was a fiction from the start of his murderous, life-cramping, thieving regime, but all sorts of Americans have thought it fine to play kissy-kissy with him, as if he was misunderstood and the deprivations of his people the consequence of American foul play. What say you now, friends of Fidel?

Gone is the thought that moves toward ending the U.S. embargo would bring out Castro's cheerier side. The United States was edging toward its conclusion. Even President Bush - fully aware of how angry Cuban Americans could cost him Florida in 2004 - had said good deeds could lead to reconsidered policies.

Now even European leaders, always more conciliatory, are scouting about for possible sanctions.

Gone also, by the way, is any persuasive argument that the United Nations has relevance in the fight for governmental decency in this world. This week, Cuba won uncontested re-election to the 53-member Human Rights Commission. Earlier, the commission had embarrassed itself by defeating a resolution censuring the Cuban crackdown.

There was little the United States could do about seating Cuba although the U.S. delegation did walk out of the meeting in protest. Countries are elected by region so it's Cuba's Latin American neighbors that deserve the blame - and the shame - for this gross hypocrisy.

So what's to be done about Cuba? Simply extending the U.S. embargo from here to eternity is unlikely to achieve much, but neither is it consonant with the lessons of history that rewarding criminals stops crime. At the least, voices must rise in fierce condemnation, and from all over the civilized world. The dissidents must be encouraged, their tormentors excoriated.

The free world must not let go of its outrage, but beat the drum regularly, turning to other sanctions if effective, humane ones can be found, while insistently seeking the release of all Castro's political prisoners and the demise of his government by thuggery.

The Birmingham Post Herald

May 2, 2003