The Miami Herald,
STAND UP FOR FREEDOM
More than 130 Mexican lawmakers went on an all-expenses-paid trip to Cuba last week -- and the Cuban regime got what it paid for.
By no accident did the legislative trip come only two week before President Fox is to arrive in Cuba for a visit on Feb. 3-4. The Cuban regime no doubt wanted the well-feted Mexican legislators to prepare the ground for support on at least two issues: the upcoming vote at the United Nations Human Rights Commission and ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
We hope that President Fox will not be as easily seduced by the tyrant.
After toppling the 70-year, one-party rule of Mexico, President Fox has been a vocal advocate of human rights and multiparty democracy. He first annoyed Fidel Castro by calling for a democratic transition in Cuba. But the real shock to Cuba's police state came last April, when Mexico abstained on a vote condemning Cuba's human-rights record after years of unconditionally having voted against it.
Despite overwhelming evidence of chronic human-rights abuses in totalitarian Cuba, Mexico's old government pointed to its tradition of nonintervention to justify support of the repressive regime. That's what the Mexican lawmakers are now parroting -- even as many urge President Fox to press the United States to end the embargo of Cuba.
Yet Cuba's regime makes no bones about intervening in domestic Mexican affairs. After picking up the tab for feeding and lodging the lawmakers -- more than 20 percent of the entire Mexican Congress -- Castro lobbied them on foreign affairs. Had they spoken to Vladimiro Roca, Oscar Elías Biscet or any other Cuban political prisoner or dissident, legislators would have heard a different story.
It's bad enough for visiting lawmakers -- and not just the Mexicans -- to enjoy food and venues prohibited for ordinary Cubans. But to ignore the universal lack of freedoms and human rights and Cuba's persecuted opposition is unconscionable.
President Fox pledged to do better when he met with The Herald's Editorial Board at the Americas Conference in September. He vowed to meet with Cuban dissidents upon visiting the island, as he has met with members of the political opposition in every country he has visited. Cuba should be no exception.