*LEF418   03/16/95


TR95031618 (Watson discusses proposed Cuban Liberty Act) bc (760)

By Bruce Carey

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration and private groups told Congress

March 16 that establishment of democracy and restoration of human rights in

Cuba remains the goal even as Fidel Castro's regime continues to threaten

its neighbors.

Alexander Watson, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs,

told lawmakers that President Clinton and his advisers agree with Congress

that the Castro dictatorship is a U.S. enemy.  But Watson said he disagreed

on some of the provisions of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity

Act (LIBERTAD) now being considered on Capitol Hill, parts of which he said

could damage U.S. policy objectives rather than help move Cuba towards


"Human rights and democracy are the core of our policy towards Cuba," Watson

told the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the House International

Relations Committee.

He said the Clinton administration "looks forward to the day when the Cuban

people can enjoy the freedoms that most of the other countries of the

hemisphere now recognize as fundamental human rights.  We were pleased to

see that again this year the United Nations Human Rights Commission voted

by a wide margin to condemn the human rights situation in Cuba, this time

with new support from a number of our Latin neighbors."

Watson stressed that the administration supports the goal of the 1993 Cuban

Democracy Act, which is "the peaceful transition to democracy on the

island.  The CDA guides our policy, which is to maintain firm pressure on

the Cuban government for peaceful change by denying legitimacy and

resources to the Castro regime through economic sanctions, while reaching

around the regime to the Cuban people through humanitarian donations."

"We strongly believe that the embargo is the best leverage we have to

promote change in Cuba, and that it is working," especially now that Havana

is no longer receiving foreign aid because of the collapse of the Soviet

Union, Watson said.

1ut he added that some provisions of LIBERTAD, which is meant to support the

goals of the CDA, would hurt rather than help Cuban liberty and U.S.

national interests.  The legislation was introduced in February Jesse Helms

(R-NC), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and was

co-sponsored by 19 other senators of both political parties.

One questionable provision would require the president to withhold from

Russia the amount of aid it provides Cuba in return for use of the Lourdes

signal intelligence facility.  This could limit the U.S. ability to promote

reform in Russia, said Watson.

Another provision would bar entry into the United States of sugar from third

countries which import Cuban sugar.  This would violate U.S. obligations

under the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade

Agreement, Watson said.  Such a ban might also be viewed as a secondary

boycott similar to that imposed by Arab countries on third countries that

trade with Israel -- a policy long opposed by Washington.

These and certain other elements of the proposed legislation, Watson said,

would deny the president the flexibility to determine if and how much Cuba

is moving toward democracy, and what to do to support that transition.  The

absence of presidential discretionary power in matters involving the

economic embargo and mandatory sanctions is liable to do more damage than

good to important policy objectives.

Another witness was Frank Calzon of Freedom House, who said Cuba "will face

another disastrous sugar crop this year...and it is almost impossible for a

Cuban without some links to the regime to obtain a job in a hotel or a

foreign enterprise."

And Castro's severe repression has not been lifted, he said.  "The regime

has renewed efforts to pressure human rights leaders to leave Cuba.  Castro

has even offered to release several human rights leaders currently in

prison on the condition that they go directly to the airport and into

exile.  Some continue to refuse, and remain in prison."

Retired Col. Juan Armando Montes -- a former U.S. Army Special Forces

officer and currently president of the Cuban American Veterans association

-- said Castro is still a military threat to the Western Hemisphere.  "The

Cuban armed forces strategic capabilities remain formidable," he said.

"Castro's armed forces have the capability to launch a well-coordinated

surprise attack on any Caribbean neighbor.

"Even a small force (could) choke points in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of

Mexico, and the approaches to the Panama Canal vital to our shipping