Going to bat against U.S. hypocrisy about Cuba

March 15, 2006|By GREGORY KANE

With the Dominican Republic's hammering of Cuba Monday in the World Baseball Classic, it's starting to look less likely that I'll be sending a bottle of rum to Amado Riol.

Riol is the Cuban official who handles giving credentials to pesky journalists. I met Riol after arriving in Cuba for a late February visit with four other pesky American journalists. Our group - on a trip sponsored and paid for by the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C. - landed in Havana on a Monday, four days before the World Baseball Classic started on March 2.

I learned Cubans have three deep loves, three all-consuming passions. They are, in order of importance:

1. Baseball.

2. Talking.

3. Talking about baseball.

So after I happened to mention, while thinking out loud, that I hoped the Cuban team would beat the pants off the American team if the two met in the classic, that set Cuban tongues a-waggin'. Frank Gonzalez Garcia, the director of Prensa Latina, Cuba's Latin American information agency, predicted his guys would beat the Americans by a score of 2-1.

Riol, on the other hand, may have been imbibing too much rum that day. He predicted Cuba would beat the United States by a score of 4-0.

"You sure about that, Amado?" I asked him. "Remember, we may have Roger Clemens pitching. Just because the guy's 43 years old doesn't mean he's comatose, which is what he'd have to be if you think your team's going to get four runs off him."

Riol said he was sure of it. He bet me a bottle of rum.

It looks like that bottle of rum might have to be shipped from Havana to Baltimore. Cuba is now in a tough pool with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The Cubans play Puerto Rico tonight. They might not survive to play the Americans.

So my wish of seeing Cuba's baseball team beat some of our arrogance out of us might go unfulfilled. And don't deny it. When it comes to Cuba and Cubans, we are arrogant.

And stupid. And downright hypocritical.

Yes, yes, yes. I can hear all the old arguments about what a terrible communist dictatorship Cuba is even as I write this.

Now, when Cuba was a client state of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, those arguments had some validity. But as even ultra-conservative Patrick Buchanan has pointed out, we won the Cold War. It's time to start acting like we won it.

And it's time to stop letting our Cuba policy be hijacked by a bunch of anti-Castro Cubans in southern Florida who don't even represent 1 percent of the American population. Our Cuban policy should be based on what benefits all Americans, not what benefits a tiny minority.

So, does our continued embargo against Cuba benefit all Americans? Do our restrictions on travel benefit us?

Why is it that I saw tourists from Canada, Great Britain and a wealth of European countries but none from the United States? If these countries can have normal relations with Cuba, why can't we?

Did our attempt to bar Cuba from participating in the World Baseball Classic benefit Americans?

No, it embarrassed us. We claimed we didn't want Cuba to benefit financially. But when they said they'd donate any money they won to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, we were left with egg on our faces.

Heaven forbid that Cuba should benefit economically. No communist dictatorship should, right? Then explain our policy toward the equally communist dictatorships in China and Vietnam.

We have pretty normal relations with those countries, certainly more normal than we have with Cuba. But Chinese troops fought in the Korean War, in which over 50,000 Americans were killed. More than 50,000 lost their lives in the Vietnam War as well.

So we have comparatively spiffy relations with communist nations that have killed tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and very few with the communist nation that has killed none.

If this keeps up, some perspicacious soul who publishes dictionaries will just slap a map of the United States next to the "hypocrisy" entry. How deep does the hypocrisy run?

After Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush rightly proclaimed America was at war with terrorism and terrorists. Those countries that harbored terrorists, he said, were no better than terrorists themselves.

So why haven't we extradited la, where authorities want to try Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuehim for his alleged complicity in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people?

In 1998 Posada bragged of his involvement in a string of hotel bombings in Havana that left one tourist dead. He has since wisely recanted that boast.

It's time to end such idiotic double standards, re-evaluate our relations with the Castro government, end the embargo, expand the possibilities for baseball and allow normal travel between the two nations.

Then maybe Amado Riol can just bring me my bottle of rum.

greg.kane@baltsun.com

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