Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

Glickman says limits ‘absurd’

Former Kansas congressman backs trade

February 27, 2004


The Bush administration crackdown on travel to Cuba delayed at least one prominent Kansan's trip to the island.

In 2002, a Farm Foundation group that included Dan Glickman, former Kansas congressman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton administration, was denied permission to visit Cuba.

"It's extremely arbitrary, to be honest with you," Glickman said of the government's denial of his trip. "It's like a never-never land of conflicting reasons being given by our government for reasons why you can't go to Cuba. It's an example of how difficult our government has made it to make normal exchanges. My own belief is that it's absurd."

Glickman, now with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, has been a champion of relaxed relations with Cuba.

In July 2003, he was finally able to go there on a trip sponsored by the Center for International Policy, a Washington, D.C., organization that promotes international cooperation.

Glickman said he saw no logic in the current Bush opposition to greater contact with Cuba.

"It's a policy that makes no political, economic or foreign policy sense," he said. "We do enormous trade with China, and the Chinese have a very mixed human rights record. I'm not telling you the Cuban government is angelic. They're not. But we do business with a lot of countries that have repressive regimes."

Normal relations with Cuba would better the chances of a transition to democracy when Castro dies, Glickman predicted.

"Why cut off relations with a country so close to us that shares so much of our culture?" he said. "One of these days, Castro will be gone. They don't have eternal life there, and we'd like to have some role in shaping what happens. There is a great bond between the Cuban and American people."

Glickman said he met Castro in Havana and told the dictator his parents in 1937 had traveled from Wichita to Galveston, Texas, where they caught a boat to Havana.

Glickman said he told Castro: "My parents honeymooned here in Havana. This place has a lot of sentimental value for me. But I wasn't conceived here. I was born seven years later."

"Yes, but you were contemplated here," Castro replied.

"Castro is a very engaging, charismatic guy," Glickman said.

"I sure hope we can make a change in this policy someday. I frankly don't think President Bush will ever do that."

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