Tags: Adams | Cuba | Trip | Fatal | Mistake

Adams Cuba Trip a Fatal Mistake

Thursday, 24 January 2002 12:00 AM

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' decision to visit Fidel Castro's Cuba was an insult to all Americans. But it was especially duplicitous toward those who have worked for peace and justice in Ireland, and Sinn Fein's role in the Irish peace process is in jeopardy.

While Adams' actions may not ultimately damage the peace process, they have already seriously damaged his relationship with Irish America.

Fidel Castro is a communist dictator who rules through force, prison and torture. He has executed over 8,700 "enemies of the revolution" by firing squad and beatings. His regime took away nearly all private property, drove over 1 million Cubans into exile in America, and created a tropical gulag, including the notorious Ariza political prison camp.

Forty years of Castro's communism have impoverished Cuba. In 1960, Cuba was among the three richest countries in Latin America. Today, after Haiti, it is the poorest.

Cuba's often-praised health care system has collapsed, with hospital staff stealing medicines to hoard for their own families or to resell on the black market. Surgery in Cuba is now often performed without anesthesia.

Castro has created a system of "tourist apartheid" and "medical apartheid," where only powerful Communist Party officials and foreigners with hard currency are allowed to enter hotels or have access to decent medical care.

I have traveled several times to Cuba and seen the hopelessness and brutality that Castro and communism have brought. Free speech and dissent are illegal. I met one young Cuban who had dared to hold up a pro-democracy poster. He was arrested, jailed and beaten in the face with an iron bar by Castro's police, until all his teeth were smashed.

If Gerry Adams were a Cuban, he would have been executed or "disappeared" long ago.

But Castro is not just a murderous dictator. He has made himself a bitter enemy of America. For 40 years Castro provided guns, explosives and, at one point, over 70,000 soldiers to crush democracies and support communist dictatorships around the world.

Castro runs a biological warfare program, and his support for terrorist groups like Colombia's FARC have landed Cuba on the U.S. list of terrorist states.

President Bush's special envoy, Ambassador Richard Haass, personally asked Adams not to go to Castro's Cuba. New York Gov. George Pataki, who supported Adams at critical points in the past to further the Irish peace process, personally asked Adams not to go.

But Adams not only ignored them and went to "honor" Castro, he then refused to criticize Castro's human rights abuses or to even meet with any pro-democracy dissidents in Cuba.

Adams then attacked American foreign policy while in Cuba, joining Castro in using the loaded language of "blockade" to denounce the U.S. partial economic embargo, and he stood by on stage while Castro aides condemned America's defense against terrorism as a criminal "genocide." These are not the actions of a friend.

Adams strained awkwardly while in Cuba to find some relevant Irish-Cuban connection to justify his trip, noting, for example, that the Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara was one-eighth Irish!

Yet Adams was strangely silent about the very real contribution to Cuban history of the Irish-born priest Monsignor Bryan Walsh, who led the 1960s exodus of over 14,000 Cuban children to freedom in the U.S. in "Operation Peter Pan."

Monsignor Walsh died last month, and one of the children he rescued, Mel Martinez, is now U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

A master of political symbolism, Adams understood exactly how offensive his words and actions in Cuba would be. He chose not to care. Adams was well aware that the over 2 million Cuban-Americans, whose families suffered jail, torture and exile from Castro, would be infuriated, and that most of them live in Florida, where the president's brother, Jeb Bush, is governor.

Adams knew that his appearance supporting an anti-American terrorist dictator, just weeks after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, would insult millions of Americans and embarrass leaders such as Gov. Pataki, Congressmen Ben Gilman, R-N.Y., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who strongly supported Sinn Fein's role in the peace process in the past.

There is now a real sense in Irish America that all the hard work and trust to include Sinn Fein in the peace process has been betrayed.

Congressional friends of Ireland like Gilman and Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., have turned noticeably away from Adams and Sinn Fein, to the larger Nationalist Party in Northern Ireland, the SDLP and its new leader Mark Durkan, to coordinate future Northern Ireland policy.

Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., is now aggressively pressing ahead with hearings on the IRA-Castro-FARC connection. Washington's support of the SDLP and away from Sinn Fein, in accepting the new Northern Ireland Policing Board, reflects this re-alignment.

The history of Ireland is littered with the tragic legacy of failed Nationalist leaders, seduced and ruined by their own arrogance and personal self-indulgence.

The 19th century Irish Nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell alienated his supporters, destroyed himself, and set Irish Nationalism back a generation, by his very public affair with his married mistress, Kitty O'Shea.

Time will tell whether the communist dictator Fidel Castro proves to be Gerry Adams' Kitty O'Shea.

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Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' decision to visit Fidel Castro's Cuba was an insult to all Americans. But it was especially duplicitous toward those who have worked for peace and justice in Ireland, and Sinn Fein's role in the Irish peace process is in jeopardy. While...
Thursday, 24 January 2002 12:00 AM
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