- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Calling Cubans

The senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday criticized the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS) for urging a “dialogue about or with Cuba.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida expressed shock over comments by Jose Miguel Insulza, who called for more engagement with Cuba in a speech last week in Jamaica and noted that the communist government — “not the people” — was suspended from the OAS in 1962.

“How can the chief of an organization whose founding charter explicitly calls for its member states to be open and democratic nations that respect human rights now be saying that he is open to a dialogue with the last totalitarian communist regime in the hemisphere?” she asked.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen, whose family fled Cuba after Fidel Castro grabbed power in 1959, added that the OAS should open a dialogue with Cuba only after the ailing dictator and his brother, Raul, are replaced with a democratic government. After emergency surgery last year, Mr. Castro ceded daily control of Cuba to his brother, who is now acting president.

“The OAS should have a dialogue with Cuban only when there are true democratic elections, human rights are respected and political prisoners are freed. Only then should Cuba be allowed to reclaim its seat at the OAS,” she said.

“Opening talks now with the brutal Castro regime, before there is any democratization, would be a colossal miscalculation on the part of the OAS that would only extend the grip that the Castro brothers hold over the Cuban nation.”

Mr. Insulza, addressing the West Indies University in Kingston, noted that the majority of the 34 member nations have diplomatic relations with Cuba, although Cuba is barred from participating in OAS affairs.

“I hope the lack of dialogue about or with Cuba is only a temporary situation,” he said. “We cannot help the people of Cuba if we cannot talk to them.”

Mr. Insulza noted that the Castro government “not the people and country of Cuba” was suspended from the OAS.

Appeal to Cyprus

The top two members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week appealed to the Cypriot ambassador for the extradition of a key figure in the U.N. food-for-oil scandal that allowed former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to launder billions of dollars and avoid some U.N. sanctions.

Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, California Democrat, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and ranking member, wrote Ambassador Andreas Kakouri, asking him to demonstrate the “new era of international cooperation by your country” by sending Benon Sevan, the former U.N. official who ran the $64 billion program, to the United States to face trial on bribery charges.

In October 2005, Mr. Sevan returned to his native Cyprus, where laws protect him from extradition. A treaty with the United States allows Washington to request an extradition, but Cyprus is not obligated to comply.

Mr. Lantos and Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen noted that Cyprus has entered a “new era of international cooperation” with its admission to the European Union.

“In this context, we trust that your government will undertake robust efforts to investigate, locate and extradite Mr. Sevan, so that he may be fairly tried for his alleged violations of United States law and international confidence,” they said.

Bhutan’s refugees

The United States is trying to help feed 100,000 ethnic Nepalese Hindus in refugee camps in Nepal who fled neighboring Bhutan 20 years ago because of religious persecution in the Buddhist kingdom, the U.S. ambassador to Nepal announced this week.

Ambassador James Moriarty said $1.8 billion worth of food will help the United Nations care for the refugees.

“We are glad to help the [U.N.] World Food Program help the … refugees in their hour of need,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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