ON Nov. 24, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the United States to end its decades-old economic embargo against Cuba. It is no coincidence that the resolution, sponsored by Cuba, was put forward only a day before the release of a sweeping indictment of the Castro regime's human-rights abuses, also prepared by the UN.
Ambassador Carl-Johan Groth of Sweden, Special Rapporteur to the Commission on Human Rights, has in less than three months compiled a wealth of information concerning the deteriorating human rights situation on the island. And this is only the interim report. The final version, which will be completed in time for the annual meeting of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva early next year, will be even more comprehensive.
In this light, the vote on the embargo can be seen for the diversionary tactic that it is. The problem that I and many other Cuban-Americans have is that the excuse for the vote was handed to Castro by the Cuban exile community and the US government, in the form of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992. Among its other provisions, most of which are reasonable, the new law seeks to tighten the embargo further by prohibiting foreign subsidiaries of US companies from doing business with Cuba, and by punishing oth er countries that do so.
While well-intentioned, the Cuban Democracy Act helps Castro by alienating US allies. This is evidenced by the fact that such close friends as Canada, France, and Spain supported the Cuban resolution. Also, the Democracy Act once again permits the dictator to use Cuban nationalism for his own ends, namely to promote an us-against-them mentality on the island. With little or no accurate information about the outside world, Cubans see only a unilateral, internationally unpopular US measure directed against
Cuba, when concerted international pressure would send a much clearer signal of support for change.
Finally, the law serves to divert attention from the central issue - not the embargo, but the fact that after nearly 34 years of totalitarian dictatorship, Cuba must at last join the global trend toward democracy. The front-page press coverage afforded the vote - in contrast to the meager attention paid to the Human Rights Commission's report - is proof that the diversion succeeded.
The Cuban exile community is not as ideologically monolithic as it once was, and many of us are tired of seeing our self-appointed leaders shoot all Cubans in the foot, when their ostensible target is Fidel Castro. The embargo has become such a litmus test among the exiles - and now internationally - that the suffering of Cubans on the island, and the causes of that suffering, are obscured in a swamp of recriminations, politicking, and jockeying for position. The more turmoil there is in Miami, the more soundly Castro sleeps every night.
There appears to be a direct correlation between the vehemence of anti-Castro groups and their usefulness to him. In November, the chief of operations of Alpha 66, a paramilitary organization dedicated to the overthrow of the dictatorship, admitted that several of his group's commando raids to Cuba had been ordered and paid for by the Cuban government. Clearly, these attacks help Castro by providing an excuse for further repression. These groups need to reexamine their tactics accordingly.
Castro is now on increasingly thin ice. His dismissal of party ideologue Carlos Aldana earlier this fall, his dismal reception at the Ibero-American summit in Spain this summer, and his increasing reliance on crude forms of repression are all proof of this.
It is time for Cubans who are lucky enough to live in freedom to act on behalf of those who do not. We in the exile community must realize that we need to use our collective energy and resources where they will have the greatest effect - seeking organized international condemnation of the Cuban regime, and supporting the work being done inside Cuba by the burgeoning dissident movement.