Skip to comments.Reich vows to defend Cuba embargo: 'Murderous regime' criticized in wide-ranging policy statement
Posted on 03/13/2002 1:00:30 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON - The State Department's new point man for Latin America pledged Tuesday to stave off any attempt to relax a U.S. trade embargo that would throw ''a lifeline to a failed, corrupt, dictatorial, murderous regime'' in Cuba.
Striking a new chord in U.S. policy toward the Americas, Reich said Washington views corruption as a major obstacle to progress, and has mounted an aggressive campaign to yank U.S. visas of corrupt officials.
While touching on a variety of regional issues, Reich, who was born in Cuba and fled the island for the United States shortly after the 1959 revolution, was most emphatic about retaining the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
''We're not going to help Fidel Castro stay in power by opening up our markets to Cuba,'' he said. ``We're not going to do it.''
Reich said the Bush administration goal is ''a free and democratic Cuba as rapidly and peacefully as possible.'' Relaxing trade restrictions and ''providing economic succor'' to the Castro government would only delay achieving the goal, he said.
''Cuban people are no different than other people in Latin America. They just want to be free,'' Reich said.
Reich said the Castro regime ''makes a mockery of freedom and imposes tyranny on its people.'' He noted that a broad review of U.S. policy toward Cuba is under way, and said the Bush administration wants to bolster ``the growing pro-freedom movement inside Cuba.''
Reich, who ran a consulting and lobbying firm with lucrative contracts with the Bacardi distillery and other companies prior to his appointment, rejected a suggestion that he may have a conflict of interest in dealing with U.S. policy toward Cuba.
THE CUBA ISSUE
''I am not recused from the Cuba issue,'' he said during a question-and-answer session following his speech, which was sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy research institute in Washington.
Reich said the Bush administration is determined to help Latin citizens fight graft.
''Corruption is the single biggest obstacle to economic development in the developing world,'' Reich said. ``The wealth of the people has been stolen by too many people in power. . . . I know I'm making a generalization, and I hope that people won't believe that I am accusing everyone of being corrupt, but the fact is that there is a lot of corruption in many countries of the region.''
U.S. consular officials have already revoked ''more than one'' visa, and will target other corrupt individuals when U.S. officials are ''100 percent sure that we have the facts,'' he said.
''They are not going to retire to Key Biscayne. They're not going to go to Disney World. And their spouses are not going to shop on Fifth Avenue,'' Reich said. ``And if they're sick, they're not going to go to Houston to have their hearts examined.''
Reich rejected a suggestion that U.S. policies may be partly to blame for the recent collapse of Argentina's economy.
''There are myriad reasons why Argentina is in the condition it's in,'' he said. ``It is because of mismanagement and a lot of corruption over many, many decades.''
Reich said President Bush has talked to ''at least 10 different heads of state in the region'' to help find a solution to Argentina's crisis.
He called Haiti ''the most vexing challenge in the hemisphere'' because of ``the cumulative effects of 200 years of bad leadership commanding a predatory state.''
The Bush administration supports efforts by the Organization of American States to find a way around a political impasse between President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his political opposition, and would like to ''mitigate humanitarian distress'' in the nation, he said.
On Colombia, Reich cited a ''solemn obligation'' to help the nation restore security and defend its democracy. He dismissed Colombia's outlaw armed bands on the left and right as criminal groups financed by narcotics trafficking.
''These are not insurgents. These are criminals. These are terrorists,'' he said.
Reich said the Bush administration will continue to push for a free-trade region across the hemisphere even though ``many citizens and some leaders are beginning to question the wisdom of the political and economic reforms on which they have embarked during the past 10 to 15 years.''
He identified root problems as ''poor governance and incomplete reforms'' rather than fundamental flaws in the free-market economic model. ''There are no credible alternatives on the horizon,'' he said.
Otto Reich, in his first speech since joining the State Department in January, vowed to maintain the 40-year-old embargo against Cuba.
''We are not going to help Fidel Castro stay in power by opening up our markets to Cuba,'' he said.
The Cuban-born Reich is best known for his stalwart opposition to Cuba, but he touched on a variety of hemispheric issues as he spoke at a gathering sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a private research group.
Reich said the administration plans to tackle widespread corruption in Latin America by revoking the visas of people who steal public funds.
''We don't want corrupt people here,'' he said. ''They're not going to retire in Key Biscayne. They're not going to go to Disney World and their spouses are not going to shop on Fifth Avenue. And if they are sick, they are not going to go to Houston to have their hearts examined.''
He said ''more than one'' visa already has been revoked. He called corruption the biggest obstacle to development in poor countries.
Reich, who migrated to the United States as a teenager shortly after the 1959 revolution in Cuba, acknowledged that Latin America is in trouble, with low growth rates and growing skepticism about US-backed political and economic reforms.
He said the situation is not entirely bleak, citing Chile and El Salvador as success stories because they have stayed the course on reform.
President Bush gave Reich a recess appointment in January after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to grant him a confirmation hearing.
His critics accused him of engaging in improper activities while serving the Reagan administration as a public diplomacy adviser in the 1980's. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said Reich was not involved in wrongdoing.
After an informal swearing in two months ago, Powell presided at a ceremonial oath-taking on Monday. Bush resubmitted Reich's name for Senate confirmation late last month.
Powell, in remarks at the ceremony, voiced support for a peaceful, democratic change in Cuba and said he was confident that objective ''will be achieved.''
Shortly after Reich took charge of the State Department's bureau of Western Hemisphere affairs, the administration began a policy review of Cuba. A principal goal is to determine Cuba's potential for damaging US interests.
But there are powerful currents on Capitol Hill in support of easing restrictions on US travel to Cuba on grounds that visiting Americans can promote democratic values.
The Bush administration says there is too much illegal travel to Cuba by Americans and has been strengthening enforcement of restrictions.
Discussing other individual countries Reich said:
The United States is reviewing its policy toward Colombia with a view toward providing military support other than counter-narcotics assistance.
Misrule in Argentina is responsible for the steady economic deterioration there over the past 70 years.
This story ran on page A21 of the Boston Globe on 3/13/2002. © Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
During the 1980's, Reich was a key player in the Reagan administration's efforts to fight the spread of communism in Central America, particularly in Nicaragua. Reich served as Latin America director of the Agency for International Development, and later headed the Office of Public Diplomacy in the State Department, where he countered communist propaganda in Central America. In 1986, Reich was appointed ambassador to Venezuela. Reagan's policies were ultimately vindicated as democracy triumphed in the region.
Especially jarring for opponents of U.S. intervention were the results of the 1990 free elections in Nicaragua, where the Sandanistas, the darlings of American leftists like Dodd, were soundly defeated. Apparently, Dodd can't forgive Reich for being right.
Reich is also intolerable to leftists because of his staunch opposition to the brutal and oppressive dictatorship in Cuba. Reich's father fled to Cuba from Austria in 1939 to escape Hitler's persecution of the Jews (Reich's grandparents perished in the Holocaust). Sensing the onset of another totalitarian regime following the triumph of Castro's communist revolution in 1959, Walter Reich ran again, this time to the United States, with his family in tow. Otto Reich was 14.
Reich doesn't need to read the countless international reports that document Cuba's human rights violations to recognize Castro's tyranny. His support of the trade embargo and of U.S.-led efforts to hasten Castro's demise put Reich squarely at odds with Dodd and others who would like to normalize relations with Cuba.
There is nothing wrong with having a vigorous debate about the future of U.S.-Cuba relations, but the confirmation process is not the place for it.
In addition to Reich's long and distinguished tenure as a diplomat, it may be appropriate to have a strong critic of the Castro regime directing U.S. policy in Latin America in light of America's new war on terrorism. As Bush has made clear, the United States must use every resource at its disposal to fight the global terror network, including governments that provide funding and refuge for terrorists. This effort cannot be restricted to the Middle East, for we know the global terror network has a haven just 90 miles from our shores. According to the State Department, Cuba takes its place alongside Syria, Iran, Iraq and Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. [End Excerpt]
I haven't read anything this encouraging in YEARS!
"They'll" shut him up, I fear...
But maybe, just maybe... he can get the word out, and we'll get somewhere against Fidel!
Ohhhhh baby, I like the way you talk! hehe
I think I really, really LIKE this Reich fellow! (Note to Gregg Craig: Stuff it, big boy!)
Absolutely. I had forgotten that, if I ever knew it. God Bless the wisdom of President Bush and his administration!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.