NEW YORK — DON'T let up on Fidel.
That's the advice from United States Rep. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey, a Cuban American, whose district across from New York City includes 50,000 Cuban Americans.
Instead, Representative Menendez says the Clinton administration should stop the flow of money from exiles into Cuba and should step up attempts to beam news programs from Television Marti onto the island. Although President Clinton has announced financial sanctions, Menendez notes the sanctions have not gone into effect yet. ``We are not denying Castro $1 million per day into his economy,'' he says.
To stem the flood of refuges leaving the country by rafts, Menendez recommends sending a team of immigration specialists to Havana where the US has a Cuban special-interest section in the Swiss Embassy. He believes the US should actively promote getting Cubans to apply for visas there.
``If people see some response to adjusting their status, people will go there,'' he says. Currently, only 3,000 visas have been acted on. There are 25,000 visas available to Cubans this year.
In the past, Cubans have been afraid of going to the special-interest section because of their terror of Cuba's secret police. Menendez, however, believes the Cubans are losing their fear now that Castro is allowing them to leave the country by raft. ``They would need a strengthening of personnel to make it ... a true alternative to taking to the sea,'' adds the congressman.
Menendez also believes the US should try to defuse the problem as a US-Havana issue. Instead, he would like to see more involvement by other countries in the hemisphere as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.