The Wahington Post
Sunday, May 30, 1999; Page B06

Playing Ball With Cuba

                  I am not surprised that Jorge Mas, vice chairman of the Cuban American
                  National Foundation, has turned the baseball game between the Baltimore
                  Orioles and Cuba's best baseball players into a political event [letters, May
                  21]. Mr. Mas criticizes the Baltimore Orioles and others for turning the
                  game into a grossly politicized spectacle for adversaries of U.S. policy.

                  As Washington director of the Cuban Committee for Democracy, a Cuban
                  -American organization favoring moderate policies of engagement with
                  Cuba, I find this statement surprising. After all, adversaries of the current
                  U.S. policy were not politicizing the game by protesting outside. That was
                  the foundation and its allies. People in favor of increasing people-to-people
                  contacts were not rushing the field and disrupting the game to make
                  political statements. Once again, that was the hard-line segment of the
                  Cuban American community trying to use this apolitical event for political
                  gain. I agree with Mr. Mas's right to express his political feelings, but I am
                  disheartened by his criticisms of this game as being politicized when his
                  organization was the one politicizing it.

                  The Cuban Committee for Democracy also disagrees with Mr. Mas's
                  assessment of the priorities U.S. policy should set toward Cuba. Forty
                  years of hostility toward the island have only encouraged Mr. Castro and
                  his government to resist change, for fear that the United States will return
                  to the island with a heavy hand. We cannot expect to have our voice heard
                  in Cuba as long as we are the enemy. Basing our relationship with Cuba on
                  negotiation is the only way that the United States can hope to help Cuba in
                  its transition to democracy. The baseball game is a step in that direction.

                  SEAN GARCIA

                  Washington Director
                  Cuban Committee for Democracy