Regarding the opinion-page article "Cuban-American Extremists Grip US Politics and Policy," Nov. 9: Timothy Ashby alleges that an article he wrote in the Monitor caused this organization to "demand" his summary dismissal from a Cuba position at the International Republican Institute.
We must inform him that he is simply not important enough for us to spend the time and effort to "break his political career." In fact, the only political career we have ever attempted to "break" is that of a certain bearded dictator.
Jose R. Cardenas
The Cuban American National Foundation
Earlier this year, the International Republican Institute began a program to examine how the US could respond to a democratic transition in Cuba. Because the study is predicated on a continuation of the past eight administrations' embargo policy, I thought it important that the consultant not advocate lifting the embargo. For that reason, both I and a member of my staff asked Mr. Ashby his position on the embargo. He told both of us, in separate interviews, that he favored the embargo. We accepted his word.
You can imagine my surprise when, within days, opposition to Ashby's selection surfaced within IRI's transition committee based on Ashby's public writings opposing the embargo. Several committee members threatened to quit if Ashby remained. In fact, the opposition to Ashby originated with a New York-based human rights organization, and not with the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). I had no contact with CANF during (or after) this matter.
Ashby is correct on one issue: I do not find his views on the embargo personally offensive; in fact I respect and have defended his personal right to stake out whatever position he wishes on any subject. Defending the views of someone who was not forthright with me would have diverted attention and energy from IRI's primary objective - producing a report that will help bring freedom to the people of Cuba.
Lorne W. Craner
President, International Republican Institute
Writer's note: Apparently, Messrs. Cardenas and Craner feel stung by the truth. I stand by the events described in my article. The story was first exposed in The Washington Post after reporter Al Kamen interviewed Elliott Abrams and other former GOP colleagues of mine. Sympathetic sources inside the International Republican Institute independently confirmed to me the sequence of events, including the actions of Jeb Bush and the Cuban American National Foundation. IRI staffers were fully aware of my writings; they just didn't expect the vehement opposition from Cuban-American extremists.
Craner's claim to have had no contact with CANF is implausible considering that Cardenas is a member of IRI's Cuba Committee. CANF's manipulation of our policymaking process is well documented by The New Republic, CBS's "60 Minutes," and others. CANF chairman Jorge Mas Canosa was in Washington recently trying to secure more Senate votes to tighten the US embargo. He'll probably succeed. The CANF and its allies have deep pockets and Florida is a crucial state in next year's election. A rational Cuba policy doesn't seem to stand a chance.
Nothing funny about 'comic relief'
Perhaps the Monitor fell into the same trap I did in noting that Comic Relief VII was worth watching ("Worth Noting on TV," Nov. 10). I voted with the off switch after the opening vulgar display by Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. If the three comedians, including Whoopie Goldberg, hope to raise millions for the poverty-stricken, one wonders how much more could be raised with just a little more class and a real contribution to uplifted thought on behalf of the homeless.
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