Castro and Carter put on a good show
Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate. Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C
WASHINGTON -- There is nothing wrong with Jimmy Carter visiting Cuba
this week and trying to sweet-talk Fidel Castro. There is everything right
with the former
American president speaking publicly to the Cuban people and insisting upon meeting with Cuban dissi-dents.
There is equally nothing wrong with Cuban President Castro opening to
his "friend" Jimmy Carter the island's advanced biotechnology and genetic-engineering
And there is everything right with Castro's trying to show the world that he is opening up in general, lest suspicious minds assume the worst.
The problem with this, shall we say, unusual trip is in believing anything
will come of it. Both men are playing to the hilt theatrical roles in dramas
that they themselves
have written, scored and produced. As with all such productions, inevitably the curtain goes down, the theater once again darkens, and the audience pauses to
ponder exactly what it has seen.
Jimmy Carter's starring role in the Havana story this week, for instance,
is one he has rehearsed for all his life. Throughout his post-presidency,
he has traveled the
world to woo dictators to a better life. (Remember when he walked across the DMZ from North to South Korea some years ago after trying the same treatment on
the North Korean leadership?)
Not only does the former president clearly think that the dictators
he has visited-- in Panama, in Haiti, in the Middle East--can be saved,
he also believes they are
misunderstood by his own country.
Not surprisingly, in Cuba this week Carter strongly challenged the United
States, both by calling for an end to the 40-year American embargo on trade
Cuba, and by criticizing the ideas put forward during the last two weeks by the Bush administration that Cuba's sophisticated biotechnology program could be or
become a terrorist threat to America.
The former president told reporters in Havana that in his own talks
with American intelligence officers, "I asked them myself on more than
one occasion if there was
any evidence that Cuba has been sharing any information with any country on Earth that could be used for terrorist purposes. And the answer from our experts on
intelligence was no."
The countries involved with Cuba, according to allegations from Bush officials, were Iran, Libya, Algeria and potentially Iraq.
Of course, Fidel Castro's role is equally one that he has been perfecting
all his life. Throughout his long leadership and presidency (1959-2002)
in Cuba, Fidel has
played the footlights with unequaled brilliance as the misunderstood "cubano."
First, the "americanos" accused him of strangling democracy in Cuba,
while it was really all their fault; now they were not only stopping investment
in Cuba through
the embargo, but they were also accusing him of terrorism.
When you look more closely at his theatrical production, this last act doesn't quite come to a coherent end.
The American embargo, while it does play a part in the denial of international
loans to Havana, barely stifles Cuban development. Castro's government
anything anywhere in the world--but it is bankrupt, and its financial reputation is so bad that no country or institution in the world would lend it anything.
As for the biotechnology program and its potential, while much of it
is unquestionably being used for medical purposes, Castro has a verifiably
suspect record on
It was he who, with his inherent cleverness, pioneered many of the terrorist
techniques of today: the first hijacking and the first hostage-taking,
at least in our era, for
As for opening to the still-necessarily "dissident" democratic forces
in Cuba, there is not the slightest indicator that he can, will, could
or would do so. And when it
comes to any real prospects of substantial foreign investment being allowed in Cuba, Castro promises, promises and promises like a 16-year-old tease--but nothing
But just as Jimmy Carter has perfected the search for the one reformable
dictator, so has Castro perfected his dance of equivocation: One day there's
going to be
free enterprise, the next day it's gone; one day there's going to be foreign investment, the next day the doors are shut even tighter.
During this interesting week, we observed the minuet of the hemisphere's distinctly odd couple. May they dance in peace!