- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

As we approach the first anniversary of September 11, we can take comfort that the entire civilized world has joined in condemning the terrorism in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Nowhere has this support been stronger than in our own hemisphere, where the leaders of every nation have joined our fight all except one.
The Castro regime does not support the war on terrorism. According to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill in an extraordinary joint letter to Congress:
"The Cuban government has refused to cooperate with the global coalition's efforts to combat terrorism, refusing to provide information about al Qaeda. On June 8, 2002, [Fidel] Castro compared the U.S. campaign against terrorism with Hitler's Third Reich. Castro said, 'What is the difference between [Americas anti-terrorism] philosophy and those of the Nazis?' "
It doesn't end there. Cuba is working with Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to undermine America. In a meeting with Mr. Khamenei last year, Mr. Castro said that, in cooperation with each other, Iran and Cuba can destroy America. He added that "the United States regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up."
Senior State Department officials have discussed publicly the threat of Cuba's bioterrorism program. As we rush to protect our citizens from smallpox and anthrax, Mr. Castro is diverting the resources of his desperately poor economy to offensive biological-warfare research and development, and selling biotechnology to other rogue states. "We are concerned that such technology could support bioweapons programs in those states," says John Bolton, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
Even more than with al Qaeda terrorists based in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Somalia, Cuba's geographic proximity to the United States offers Mr. Castro's agents opportunities to infiltrate and gain access to U.S. territory and our critical infrastructure. In this connection, the current regulations on U.S.-Cuba travel are a crucial tool for law enforcement to prevent the use of bioweapons against the American people.
This week, Congress will vote on legislation to lift aspects of the embargo on Cuba. Doing so at this time would be a grave mistake. The theory of the legislation is that more travel and trade with Cuba will liberalize the regime but in reality, virtually all of the money that Americans might spend in Cuba will go to the government. Worse, a significant expansion of human traffic between our nation and Cuba would hopelessly complicate the job of Customs, the FBI and counter-terrorism officials who are trying to protect against the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction into the United States.
Because all investment in Cuba must flow through Cuba's government, any easing of the current embargo will directly subsidize Mr. Castro's biological weapons program. Consider this: Every employee hired for a new hotel will be selected by the Cuban government, which will bill the hotel in U.S. dollars. The government will pay the employee in Cuban pesos keep 100 percent of the dollars for itself and keep 98 percent of the value of the employee's labor.
More is at stake than preventing terrorism. The advancement of human rights and democracy in Cuba depends upon U.S. constancy. Other countries have lifted their bans on Cuba travel and trade, with no effect on Mr. Castro's behavior. The repression of the Cuban people has continued unabated, despite significant foreign tourism. But Mr. Castro has an industry with which he has been able to stay afloat.
According to the State Department's most recent report, Cuba continues to "violate systematically the fundamental civil and political rights of its citizens… . Members of the security forces and prison officials continued to beat and otherwise abuse detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists." The Cuban dictatorship actively suppresses all opposition and dissent by the Cuban people using undercover agents, informers, rapid response brigades, so-called "Committees for the Defense of the Revolution," surveillance, phone tapping, intimidation, defamation, arbitrary detention, house arrest, arbitrary searches, evictions, travel restrictions, politically motivated dismissals from employment and forced exile.
President Bush has wisely determined that lifting any aspect of the embargo is dependent upon Mr. Castro's beginning to change these practices. On May 20, the president declared America's clear policy goal: a free Cuba, achieved through a democratic transition. This must begin with the release of all political prisoners, the legalization of all political parties, the press and labor unions, and the scheduling of free, internationally supervised elections.
The embargo and the promise of lifting it provides the necessary leverage for the president to achieve these objectives. If Congress were to give Mr. Castro the trade and tourism dollars he seeks now, without any reform in exchange, we would simultaneously undermine U.S. policy and subsidize our hemisphere's most notorious state sponsor of terrorism.
Mr. Castro would use any easing of the embargo to redouble his efforts to undermine America, and to tighten his grip over the Cuban people but we must not give him that chance. As we continue to wage the war against terrorism, now is the time to fully support Mr. Bush by giving him the tools he needs to win.

Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, is chairman of the House Policy Committee. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican, is chairman of the House Policy Subcommittee on the Americas.


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