Real reform in Cuba has yet to emerge

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In his Aug. 9 op-ed column, "Castro and the cardinal," Jackson Diehl pointed out that some people say Ra?l Castro wants to modernize and stabilize Cuba. Mr. Castro wants to do both without losing power, and he has convinced Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega that the most important thing is to start "the process," even if it takes years. Mr. Castro wants to talk to Washington but will not allow the Cubans to talk.

The cardinal brought a message to the White House. Mr. Castro wants "U.S. trade and investment" and "has a desire for an opening with the U.S. government," but as Mr. Diehl said, "the time for real change -- and for a deeper engagement by the United States -- has not yet arrived." The old regime is gasping for air; 1 million workers will be laid off. No amount of U.S. trade, investment or tourism will resolve Cuba's crisis without the significant reform that President Obama and the Europeans have requested.

Forcing prisoners and their families into exile, as a requirement for releasing the prisoners, is a cruelty that Cardinal Ortega should not have accepted. Even young children have had their passports stamped "indefinite exit." They are forever banned from Cuba.

Madrid continues to do Havana's bidding, but Belgium, the current leader of the European Union, says that the prisoners' release does not justify a policy change. The Czech foreign minister, Karel Scharzenberg, who was once denied entry into Cuba for wanting to meet with dissidents, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others agree.

Frank Calzon, Arlington

The writer is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

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