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Interview with Brian Alexander, Cuba Policy Foundation


With its recent crackdown against dissidents, Cuba has been getting heavy disapproval from the international community. Brian Alexander, former Executive Director for the Cuba Policy Foundation, talks with VOA's David Borgida. Mr. Alexander details the sudden resignations of he and his entire staff as well as the road ahead with U.S.-Cuban relations.

And now joining us, Brian Alexander, former Executive Director of the Cuba Policy Foundation, a group, Mr. Alexander, which does not exist anymore. If you could tell us the story about why that doesn't exist, I'm sure we will then get to your views on U.S.-Cuban relations. Why don't you go ahead.

Certainly. Well, the Cuba Policy Foundation was the premier organization in the United States working to ease sanctions against Cuba. We believe that the economic embargo has failed to produce political and economic reform on the Island, and we also hold the view that the embargo is impacting the U.S. economy in a negative way and costing Americans thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

My board of directors, which is comprised of some of the leading figures in American diplomacy with respect to Cuba, and I resigned en masse last week in protest to the crackdown in Cuba.

Obviously this is a matter of concern to your group and those who work with it. Let's, if we can -- and I know this is not the best moment for you to do so -- but look ahead a bit, about what the road may be like for relations between Havana and Washington. Knowing full well that this relationship is full of all kinds of angles, including a U.S. domestic angle relating to politics in the State of Florida, but what can happen in the months ahead to improve this relationship, if anything?

Well, what was happening was improvements in the relationship. You see in public opinion polls published as late as last February that across the United States people had been favoring increased engagement with the Island. The notion that the embargo was a failed policy had grown in support.

You saw last year, and continuing into this year, efforts by the U.S. Congress to ease sanctions. And, generally speaking, among the Cuban American community, you've even seen a greater tolerance for sort of a fresh approach toward Cuba.

That was up until a couple of weeks ago. You saw incredible progress, I think, on the U.S. domestic front toward easing sanctions with respect to Cuba.

Now, I think it takes two to tango, though. And what has happened, it appears to me -- and I think I can speak for my board of directors -- is that Fidel Castro, unfortunately, has chosen to undertake actions that will undermine those efforts in the United States toward easing sanctions by violating any sort of cooperation, or any sort of principles really, that American lawmakers and others who would support easing sanctions with Cuba could accept.

The United States finds itself dealing with a couple of communist countries, North Korea at the moment, Cuba as well. What, in your view, has been -- if this is a fair question -- the secret to Fidel's success, his durability on that Island?

Well, I think it's an utter reluctance to allow any control to get out of his hand. I think this crackdown, which has received international condemnation, including some of the world's leading leftists who in the past had supported Fidel Castro, Fidel has shown that, time after time, he will choose internal order and stability over international public opinion.

In other words, he simply doesn't care what the rest of the world will say?

Well, he would like the rest of the world to be on his side but, when push comes to shove, I think he chooses internal order over anything else.

One more time, I want to be sure we have touched this base. And that is, is there anything that the Bush administration can do to change or improve the situation?

Well, this is I think the most important question. And I think right now the United States faces a serious dilemma with respect to Cuba. We see that four decades of economic sanctions have not produced political and economic reform on the Island.

We see where the United States has attempted to expand outreach to the Island by easing sanctions, and Fidel has worked against that.

We see where the U.S. interest section in Havana has worked with dissidents on the Island, and that work with dissidents was used by the Castro government to do what one leading dissident called the decapitation of the dissident movement.

So, sanctions don't work. Outreach to dissidents does not work. And attempts to ease the embargo don't work. What do we do next?

You're stumped I guess. And so are many other people. Brian Alexander, thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.

You're very welcome.