KITTREDGE, Colo. -- The warped relationship
between Cuba and the
United States is a principal cause and complication of the controversy surrounding
Elián González, yet it barely figures in
the debate. The pathetic tug of war
over a small child could have been
managed much more maturely if we
had normal diplomatic relations.
The cold war is well over. Cuba
offers no threat, military or otherwise,
to the United States. Our 40-year trade
embargo achieves nothing.
toward Cuba can be summarized as
waiting for Fidel Castro to die. For
those who find this worthy of a great
nation, it should be noted that both of
his parents lived into their 90's. Regardless of his health, the policy is
demeaning to the United States.
We had diplomatic relations with
the Soviet Union throughout the cold
war. Under the leadership of Richard
Nixon, we opened diplomatic relations
with the People's Republic of China.
We have an embassy in Hanoi. There
is no valid reason for our anachronistic policy toward Cuba.
But there is a reason -- it is politics.
Both political parties court the Cuban-American vote. National candidates of
both political parties assume they
need these votes to carry Miami, and
Miami to carry Florida, and Florida to
win the White House.
As they did in the Soviet bloc, normal diplomatic relations and open
trade and travel can lead to freedom
and democracy in Cuba much faster
than the present policy, which serves
only to satisfy the resentment of one
segment of our people.
In today's controversy, the candidates, the media and all involved focus
on where the boy ends up, not where
the national interest ends up. And this
is the point: not what is in the interest
of the Cuban-American community,
but what is in the national interest.
It is in our national interest to have
normal diplomatic relations with
Cuba, as it is to have them with most
other nations. Why cannot any leader
in the United States, including the
president, say this clearly and directly? The vast majority of the American
people would applaud such a step as
genuine leadership. And the people of
the world would note that the United
States had taken a diplomatic step
worthy of its principles.
Gary Hart is a former Democratic senator from Colorado.