USIS Foreign Media Reaction Report

28 August 1997


Caribbean and Russian commentators unanimously denounced a bill

introduced a month ago by U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

that would withhold U.S. aid, except for humanitarian assistance,

to Caribbean countries that expand trade with Cuba.  The Florida

congresswoman's bill, reportedly aimed at recent moves by

Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) members to

establish trade and economic ties between their trade bloc and

Havana, would also block long-sought expansion of NAFTA parity to

Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) countries.  Although mindful

that the legislation does not yet represent official U.S. policy,

observers criticized its provisions as an "open challenge" to

their governments' sovereignty, a declaration of "economic war,"

and an example of "cold, simple, sledge-hammer diplomacy" by the

U.S. superpower.  Asserting that the Ros-Lehtinen proposal was

" intent" to Helms-Burton--the controversial U.S.

anti-Castro law--Port of Spain's mass-appeal Express insisted,

"Once again, third countries doing business with Cuba are being


Writers in the region urged their countries to "make it clear"

that they "will not tolerate this kind of external interference

in our affairs."  The moderate, influential Daily Gleaner of

Kingston declared, "No one should challenge (Jamaica's) right to

foster ties with Cuba."  Similar sentiments prompted one daily to

applaud a letter of protest to Ms. Ros-Lehtinen from Caricom

ambassadors.  Cuban Central Communist Party Granma, in turn, lost

no time in praising the ambassadors' action for setting "an

example...against  the blackmail of Washington's official


As was the case with critics opposing Helms-Burton, analysts

again pointed to the perceived contradictions in the U.S.

approach to a powerful country with a huge market such as China,

and Mr. Castro's island nation.  "One policy is reserved for a

big nuclear power like China," the moderate Bridgetown Nation

complained, "while a different one is being practiced with the

apparently small and easily intimidated countries of the

Caribbean."  Others zeroed in on the issue of whether important

U.S. interests would be harmed by Caricom's edging closer to Cuba

through actions such as the Jamaican prime minister's visit to

Havana earlier this year.  Moscow's neo-communist Pravda-Five

acknowledged that at least Helms-Burton serves key U.S. concerns

by preventing Havana from acquiring "Western technologies and

large investments," but wondered, "How do visits to Cuba by

Jamaican and other Caribbean leaders threaten the U.S.?" Pundits

then admitted that the countries of the Caribbean, which wish to

increase their exports to the U.S., face difficult odds in

opposing such a U.S. initiative, were it to become law.  The

Express of Port of Spain lamented, "Caribbean governments appear

to be between the proverbial rock and a hard place.  The

continued attempt to increase the portfolio of U.S. investment

means that it will come at a price."

This survey is based on 25 reports from nine countries, Aug.


EDITOR:  Mildred Sola Neely

To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below

South Asia
Latin America and the Caribbean

LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN CUBA: "Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Mrs. Blackmail" Under the headline above, an op-ed piece by Nicanor Leon Cotayo in Cuban Central Communist Party Granma (8/21) remarked: "The Caricom members have again set an example of how to defend the independence and sovereignty of nations--be they small and poor--against the blackmail of Washington's official circles.... This is another praiseworthy attitude of the Community of Caribbean Countries. In my opinion, when you are dealing with something illegal, you cannot show you are weak or willing to negotiate. Otherwise, you would become an accomplice, which may set a bad future precedent. "The rejection of the gradual increase of extraterritorial goals in Washington's laws cannot be a mere declaration of faith you can later cast aside, when you are actually willing to legalize them. Last Sunday, the Caribbeans again proved that the pounding on the table of the northern superpower does not frighten them, and that they are willing to defend their self-determination instead. Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen may seem nothing but a Florida legislator, but, in fact, she has actually become an active mouthpiece for the Miami-based gangster group of Cuban origin that believes itself to be entitled to warn anybody in this [hemisphere]: Don't obey our orders against Havana and you will regret it." "'Anti-Cuban Congressmen Threatening Sovereign Governments'" Coverage of Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina's interview with Cuban news agency Prensa Latina in Cuban Central Communist Party Granma(8/20) included: "Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina accused Cuban-born legislators in the United States of intimidating sovereign governments while trying 'to satisfy their thirst for revenge against Cuba.'... All the countries failing to comply with the attempts to isolate Cuba received direct threats, although this was not the reason why they were summoned to this gathering. The minister said this was also proved to be the obvious despair of the quarrelers at the U.S. Congress, who need to score a point each day with one more action against Cuba, and thus be rewarded by the Cuban-American National Foundation." "Threatening U.S." According to Nidia DĦaz in Cuba Central Communist Party Granma (8/1), "In the customary boastful and shameful terms some U.S. officials have lately been using, paying no heed to diplomacy and enraptured with gendarme-like prepotence, Davidow sort of threatened Latin American presidents--like in the old Cold War days--while trying to gain allies in the blockade and aggressions against the Cuban revolution.... Also, as if ratifying the Cuban government's denunciations, he emphasized that 'NGOs play a unique role in the motivation for an independent civil society in Cuba.' "Was a meeting with entrepreneurs [from the American Enterprise Institute] the right place for such messages? Why was Latin America threateningly asked to join a hostile line against the Cuban people? Why make believe everything is ready for the final blow against the revolution? The answer is obvious: So far, there have been nine administrations at the White House, and none has succeeded in the attempts to undermine the social justice and national sovereignty that the rebels' triumph of January 1, 1959, brought to Cuba.... Obviously, the flame of U.S. might and arrogance towards Cuba is starting to dim, and it may lead to the dangerous road of desperation.... We Cubans, however, accustomed to the wrath of the powerful northern neighbor, still cannot overlook the mean, mocking and disgusting comments of this White-House tenant while referring to Che Guevara's mortal remains." BARBADOS: "Caricom Rejects Ross-Lehtinen Proposal" The moderate Bridgetown Nation (8/18) noted that a letter signed by all the Washington-based Caricom ambassadors, other than Suriname, was delivered to U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which stated: "While the United Staters and Caricom countries are committed to democracy, respect for human rights amd market-oriented economic development we have disagreed as friends on the best way to achieve these objectives. The Caricom countries' relations with Cuba is based on our firm belief in the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states." "Caricom Will Not Get Down On Its Knees" Caribbean commentator Rickey Singh responded to recent bombings in Cuba and the proposed Ros-Lehtinen legislation in the moderate Bridgetown Nation (8/15), "Cuban-Americans in the United States have returned to their old 1970s campaign of terrorism against Cuba. And the strange silence of officialdom in the Caribbean Community and the wider association of Caribbean states is somewhat deafening. For a sub-region of the Western hemisphere that has consistently shown more courage than countries in Latin America in its solidarity with Cuba against the continuing hostile policy of Washington directed at Havana, the time is now to separately or collectively denounce the bombings of hotels in Cuba and its overseas travel agencies.... "While spokesmen for the Clinton administration deride claims by the Cuban government of U.S. collusion in the resurgence of acts of anti- Cuba terrorism, the 'Alpha 56' group, a so-called 'army of liberation' against the 'Castro dictatorship', is boasting, from operational bases in the United States...of 'successes' in bombing attacks.... The proposed legislation [Ros-Lehtinen bill] arrogantly seeks to deny U.S. aid and investments to the countries of Caricom and the Central American Common Market...should they support membership of Cuba to either economic integration movement.... "What are the wealthy and politically-well-connected anti-Cuba militants and groups hoping to achieve by their version of a Helms- Burton-type extra-territorial legislation specifically aimed at Caricom and the CACM? To get us on our knees and weep forgiveness? That will not be forthcoming from Caricom. The Clinton administration, which must not be mixed up with this unimaginative, insensitive, rude piece of legislation, knows that there will be no genuflecting by a Caricom that proudly guards its sovereignty. He may be a weak president, but Clinton would be mindful that Ros-Lehtinen and company's bill runs counter to the agreement on 'partnership for prosperity and security in the Caribbean' that emerged from the Caribbean-USA summit in Barbados." "When Will U.S. Understand We Are Not Trust Territories?" An editorial writer in the moderate Bridgetown Nation (8/8) told readers that those used to the Westminister model "may not appreciate the full extent of the power of the U.S. Congress," pointing out that Congress can pass laws independent from the president. The writer continued, "The law which Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is threatening to have an open challenge to the sovereignty of our Caricom countries. As with the ship-rider proposals, and again with Elliot Abrams's propsals, the Ros-Lehtinen threat is contemptuous of the sovereignty of our islands and territories.... These Caribbean islands, Belize, Guyana and Suriname are not trust territories of the United States. We are fully independent. When will Americans understand this and learn to live with it?... "We respect and readily concede the right of the United States to dole out their 'aid' to whomsoever they please. But the Ros-Lehtinen threat goes beyond this. It violates the principle of international economic and social cooperation enshrined in the UN Charter. It also exposes the lack of sincerity in the recent American call for free trade.... Increasingly one policy is reserved for a big nuclear power like China, while a different one is being practiced with the apparently small and easily intimidated countries of the Caribbean. We must show them how wrong they are." "A Diplomatic Ambush" The moderate Bridgetown Nation (8/8) ran a column by North American editor Tony Best that described Caribbean ambassadors' reaction to the proposed legislation as "'a diplomatic ambush' that's unlikely to go anywhere in the U.S. Congress but this 'storm in a tea-cup' can be an irritant to Barbados and its Caricom neighbors.'... If the bill became law, all U.S. trade concessions and economic and technical aid, except humanitarian help, to Barbados and the rest of the region would be cut off if Cuba was allowed into Caricom." The Nation followed up with an editorial cartoon (8/6) depicting Uncle Sam washing his feet in a bowl titled "Caribbean basin" using soap labeled "Helms-Burton." The onlooker worm comments, "Hey!! Yuh big bully... You can't muddy-up we waters jus' like dat!!" and Uncle Sam replies, "Watch me." GUATEMALA: "Guatemala's Sovereignty And The Cuba Question" There was wide coverage of Under Secretary Eizenstat's recent visit to Guatemala, with opposition El Grafico (8/23) saying, "Under the pretext of setting up the agenda for President Clinton's visit (to the region)...the U.S. under secretary of state for economic affairs, Stuart Eizenstat, came to Guatemala to convince the region's exert pressure for the 'democratization of Cuba' and to insure there is a common front to demand respect for human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. This motion will be presented at the Latin American presidential summit in November. Although Foreign Minister Stein says he did not feel that the United States was pressuring him not to follow Honduras's lead in establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, by making this statement, he is implying there was coercion.... "Guatemala must maintain and defend its sovereignty...and evaluate the convenience, or what it would mean to fight--with the United States. Eizenstat's visit has left us with the impression of having been visited by a proconsul." JAMAICA: "No To Economic Blackmail" Ralston Hyman said under the headline above in the weekly, low circulation Sunday Herald (8/10): "While the visit of Ghanaian President...Jerry Rawlings...was of immense historical...significance...of greater immediate economic...importance was the visit to the island by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth.... Wirth's visit assumes even greater significance when it is juxtaposed against a bill proposed by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.... The threat of economic retribution against Caribbean states coaxing up to Cuba was...predictably and sternly rejected by Caribbean leaders as soon as it got out.... We are happy to know that the under secretary of state...and the White House do not support the proposed bill to punish Caribbean countries for dealing with Cuba, because to do so would be to support an outrageous act of brigandage.... "We the people of the Caribbean must be firm in our resolve to demonstrate to the United States that it is within our economic interests to welcome Cuba as a full member of the regional integration movement, in the same way that it is within (the United States') economic and security interests to maintain China's Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status. The United States has maintained China's MFN status despite the country's lack of adherence to human rights issues...because of the vast economic, investment and trade possibilities it offers.... Simply put, China's economic potential makes it difficult for the United States to ignore the country.... When we contrast the U.S. policy on China with that on Cuba, it demonstrates a flagrant act of hypocrisy and we must stand up and let them know that we are aware of this double standard and we will not fall for it.... "It a mockery to celebrate emancipation regionally...and then allow a threat by a congresswoman representing a foreign power to dictate our foreign trade and economic policies. We welcome the Clinton administration's disclaimer in this regard." "Stand Firm" An editorial in the business-oriented, centrist Sunday Observer (8/3) concluded, "We note with interest the threat sent to Caribbean governments by U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. According to the legislator, should Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries seek to further embrace Havana...Congress would likely vote to cut aid to the region. Cold, simple, sledge-hammer diplomacy. "It is coincidental that this warning of a possible no-holds-barred approach by contemporaneous with the defeat in the legislature last week of a proposal to provide NAFTA-parity to Caribbean Basin countries.... The region should expect no easy route when President Clinton's own version of the bill comes before the Congress.... Despite Mr. Clinton's bold Barbados in May, NAFTA-parity and the related trade enhancement arrangements were always in doubt. The prospects have just gotten bleaker. Some may be tempted to argue that Ross-Lehtinen is a policy unsophisticate, out of tune with the changing paradigms of today's world. After all, American businesses scramble over themselves in their attempt to get a piece of China, Tiananmen Square notwithstanding. In the post-Cold War world, Russia is fast becoming the next big outpost for American capital. "Unfortunately, post-Cold War developments apparently do not apply to this region, or at least Cuba.... The Helms-Burton the most vulgar manifestation of America's myopic, knee-jerk approach to Havana. And it underlines America's need for judicious management of its unipolar power. It is clear that this region must have good relations with the powerful United States, but that...must not be based on a whimpering acceptance of anything that comes from Washington, but on mutual respect. Threats...should not cause us to recoil from respectful relations with a regional neighbor. Our message is absolutely clear.... We in this region need to urgently pursue the kind of policies that build our economies so that we are not beggarly dependent on Uncle Sam. Only then can we easily ignore messages of the kind sent by Ileana Ross-Lehtinen." "No One Should Challenge Jamaica's Right To Foster Ties With Cuba" The moderate, influential Daily Gleaner (7/4) pointed out in its editorial: "Even while we proclaim the sovereignty which independence bestows, it is a hard status to maintain.... No one should challenge the nation's right to foster ties with Cuba.... That is what a single legislator purports to do by introducing a hostile bill in the American Congress; and...though there is no official policy word from Washington itself, the action amounts to a threat to the whole region. only the latest of other developments which challenge the capacity of the nation to carve a niche for itself and the region.... We the threats to banana trade with the European Union, and the menace of drug trafficking." PERU: "Helms-Burton Is Not Latin America's Fight" In the view of assistant managing editor Jorge Morelli in center- right, pro-government Expreso (8/21), "It seems that governments, and by extension, the political classes in Latin America, continue shaming their own peoples. Any chance they have, they keep on listing political issues in first priority instead of economic issues, and they take advantage of this opportunity to confront and countercharge the United States on ideological matters. For example, it borders on delirium to learn that the first concern of 14 Latin American presidents in the next Rio summit agenda is the Cuba-U.S. relationship. They will try to express one more time, ad nauseam, their rejection of the Helms-Burton law. Why? Is it Latin American presidents' business now to defend European investments vis-a-vis the anti-Castro Cubans who could claim original property (of the lands)? Is this a 'national sovereignty violation' that should convoke the pre-eminent concern of the hemisphere?" TRINIDAD-TOBAGO: "A Helms-Burton For The Caribbean" The mass-appeal Express' editorial (8/11) maintained, "The name Ileana Ros-Lehtinen means nothing to members of the regional community that comprises Caricom. But if the Republican congresswoman from Miami has her way, Caricom members could find themselves being cut off from all kinds of good will and support from the government of the United States. The Cuban-born congresswoman has introduced a bill which seeks, among other things, to withhold American assistance to Caribbean countries that support Cuba's eventual membership in Caricom.... Ros-Lehtinen has also backed up her intentions by writing to Barbados's ambassador to the United States, Courteney Blackman, strongly suggesting that the U.S. government might move to block NAFTA benefits from Caribbean Basin Initiative countries, which again includes Caricom members. "CBI legislation that would extend NAFTA's benefits to the region was one of the promises made by President Clinton at the U.S.-Caricom summit in Barbados earlier this year. But when the United States passed its budget last week, the CBI support legislation fell by the wayside.... According to a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Port of Spain, however, the provisions of CBI-extended legislation have been drafted on a separate piece of legislation and is expected to come up for consideration when the U.S. Congress resumes after its summer recess. In short, President Clinton has not turned his back on his original promise and Caricom can still look forward to getting some more trade concessions out of the CBI. "But this good news is overshadowed by the proposed Ros-Lehtinen bill. This legislation is of course similar, certainly in intent, to the Helms-Burton law.... Now, once again, third countries doing business with Cuba are being threatened with a new and different form of sanctions--although this time around Caricom countries are being specifically targeted. "Trinidad and Tobago, along with her Caricom neighbors, ought to make it clear that it will not tolerate this kind of external interference in our affairs.... It is nothing less than sheer arrogance, and a kind of bullyism, for any American legislator to want to use a big stick to keep Caricom members from dealing with their regional neighbors as they see fit. Caricom governments ought to make it clear to Ros-Lehtinen, and other members of the U.S. Congress who share her point of view, that we will not stand for it. This is nothing less than an insult to our sovereignty and it ought to be treated with the contempt it deserves." "Between The Proverbial Rock And A Hard Place" Columnist Judy Lawrence noted in the mass-appeal Express (8/13), "The hour of decision draws near for the institution of Caricom and Caribbean countries as a whole.... Once again, Capitol Hill has focused its attention on Caribbean foreign policy towards Cuba, and the dilemma posed inevitably to Caricom, is how to respond to such a challenge in the face of continuing U.S. influence in the region.... Caribbean governments appear to be between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The continued attempt to increase the portfolio of U.S. investment means that it will come at a price.... "It leaves the door wide open to wonder whether any meaningful strides can be made towards Cuba, at least, without the blessing of the United States. Pragmatically speaking, there appears to be little room for maneuvering around the realities faced by Caribbean countries. "While Caribbean governments continue to seek U.S. economic assistance, for example, regarding entry into NAFTA, it will be interesting to see how they deal with this latest predicament." "Economic War Against Caribbean" The conservative Guardian's editorial held (8/3), "The proposed bill will have serious implications for Caribbean countries, clearly. Caricom's largest and strongest trading partner is the United States. What this bill in effect proposes is 'economic war'--as Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur put it." EUROPE RUSSIA: "Twisted Logic" Pavel Bogomolov wrote for neo-communist Pravda-Five (8/23): "One could understand Congressman Burton at least partly when he and Senator Helms sought to have U.S. laws ban entry visas for Canadians and Western Europeans investing in Cuba and threaten their business interests in the United States. Those caught in the anti-Cuban blockade syndrome are eager for the 'marxist regime' to be barred from access to advanced Western technologies and large investments. But how do visits to Cuba by Jamaican and other Caribbean leaders threaten the United States? While the Americans have not in the slightest suffered from the U.S.-isolated Havana, they, apparently, risk losing physically a great many of their younger generation because of Colombian drugs. So does the U.S. Congress demand that Caricom reject Colombia's request for Most Favored Nation status in trade? No, it does not. Some logic." "Anti-Castro Radicals Help Castro" Yevgeny Bai said in reformist Izvestia (8/9): "The leaders of extremist organizations in Miami have long since become Castro's best agents. Any mention of possible aggression from outside or of emigrants' contacts with the opposition in Cuba is a grist to Castro's mill, as he uses it to tighten police control at home and raise a hullabaloo about the Americans encouraging terrorism. In a police regime like Cuba's, 'underground militants' can only exist under the control of special services. Their aim is to maintain an atmosphere of enmity and confrontation with America, (which is) vital to the regime. Right radicals on the other side of the Straits of Florida benefit by it, too. They want to be constantly in the news. Their actions, never a threat to 'Cuban socialism,' only enhance Castro's standing." GERMANY: "U.S. Cubans Trumped By U.S. Catholics?" Jochen Siemens noted in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (8/25), "The latest decision by the Clinton administration to authorize U.S. citizens a pilgrimage to Cuba in light of the Pope's visit next year shows that the United States hardly has a concept that aims at changing the situation on the island for its benefit. For more than 35 years, U.S. citizens have not been allowed to travel directly to Cuba. This is part of the failed policy of a blockade against the red thorn in the soft Caribbean belly of the United States. "What has loudly been described as a moral imperative for human rights and democracy in Cuba is, as a matter of fact, a mixture of political helplessness and pandering for votes from the influential Cuban population in the United States.... But now this powerful Cuban lobby is confronted with an even more powerful group: U.S. Catholics.... Even if 1,000 pilgrims want to travel to Cuba, then this signal of the Catholic Church to the government will obviously be more important than criticism from exiled Cubans. But maybe the administration is also trying to depart a bit from its policy of refusal. It would be high time." SOUTH ASIA SRI LANKA: "Voting In Cuba" Jayatilleke de Silva commented in the English-language, government-run Daily News (8/25), "In the citadel of free market capitalism, the United States, less than a third of the registered voters cast their vote. In contrast, in Communist Cuba, turnout at elections stand at 95 percent or higher. The electoral process is an important aspect of democracy. But there is no single universal accepted system of elections. Though Western propagandists bemoan the lack of a multi- party system in Cuba, they fail to mention that the Cuban Communist Party itself does not nominate candidates for elections. Names are proposed directly by resident (voters) at public nomination meetings held at the neighborhood level." ## For more information, please contact: U.S. Information Agency Office of Public Liaison Telephone: (202) 619-4355 8/28/97 # # #