FROM CUBA

Cuba-USA: United by drugs?

Manuel David Orrio, Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes

HAVANA, Cuba August 20 - An agreement between Cuba and the United States to

jointly fight drug traffic appears like a distinct possibility, just days after the visit to Cuba of Senators Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

The possibility of such an agreement had been suggested by remarks by Barry McCaffrey, the White House Drug Czar, who said in May: "Poor Cuba. She is in the path of international drug traffic. But I don't see any proof, now or in the last decade, of government complicity in drug traffic."

Undoubtedly, the Clinton Administration will be criticized for dallying with the enemy and Fidel Castro will be reviled as a genius with a double standard.

Even supposing that Fidel Castro were the most successful drug trafficker and that Cuban banks were immersed up to their year 2000 problem in money laundering, the most elementary logic would postulate the necessity of tying the Cuban government to just such a bilateral agreement. Nothing better than evidence of violations of such a treaty to mobilize the 82nd airborne.

More than political interests, geography rules here. William Clinton and Fidel Castro will move on, two more reasons to think that a bilateral treaty transcends opportunity. In the future, Cuba can use the accumulated joint-combat experience against drugs, not to mention the blow such a treaty would be to the guerrilla drug lords.

At the same time, one cannot ignore the importance of the precedent appreciable in the simple possibility of a treaty. Up to now, Washington and Havana have sat at the negotiating table only when compelled by the urgency of crises.

This seems to be the first time in many years that the necessity of governing brings both parties to the table. More than a treaty, it seems to be the harbinger of a change of mentality. Maybe the next step for negotiation would be to consider the land mines around Guantánamo.

José Martí wrote: "In politics, the real is what you can't see." What we can't see today in Cuba is the substitution of Fidel Castro's charismatic leadership with the rule of law. But that doesn't mean that the time has not come to start working for the future, which will be immensely dramatic and contradictory, but bright indeed.



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