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    A Times Editorial

    No support in toppling Castro

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001

    Senate supporters of the Cuban exile lobby have found a new way to give Fidel Castro legitimacy he doesn't deserve. They want to pump $100-million in overt U.S. aid to opposition groups in Cuba. It's nice to see we've moved beyond the idea of knocking off Castro with poison darts or an exploding cigar. But this is another illusion in the long-running dream that America can topple Castro.

    No dissident in his or her right mind would openly take American money to challenge Castro's police state. They would be arrested or have their honor so impugned that ordinary Cubans would consider them imperialist stooges. Under the legislation, sponsored by Republican Jesse Helms and Democrat Joseph Lieberman, the president could send cash, food and office equipment to political opposition groups and individuals critical of the regime. We might as well make a hit list for Cuba's security services.

    This impractical measure reflects the isolation of hard-liners from mainstream sentiment in the United States and overseas. Toppling Castro is not a national priority. America's allies certainly don't support the idea. The time has come for a new generation in Congress and among the exile groups to begin framing America's post-Castro relationship with Cuba. It's right around the corner. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., is talking sense: "Wasting taxpayer dollars on monies that Fidel Castro will make sure never get into the hands of average Cubans when we could be doing something truly meaningful to foster democracy is unfortunate."

    One thing's for sure. The Cuban Solidarity Act is aptly named. This legislation would give Castro another issue he could use to rally the Cuban people around his dictatorial regime.

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