President George H.W. Bush stood strong for a free Cuba
The late President George H.W. Bush is well remembered for facilitating the democratic transition of Eastern Europe, but he also kept a close eye on Communist Cuba.
President Bush never wavered in his support for a free Cuba, despite pressure from people who wanted him to put profit above principle. He always insisted that Cuba policy and actions respect U.S. laws that had set out conditions Havana must meet before sanctions were lifted. Unfortunately, as we know, a later president, pursuing “his legacy,” ignored those laws.
Bush never forgot the geopolitical dimension. When the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, faced a financial meltdown and sought millions of dollars to stabilize the Soviet economy, President Bush said he would consider a deal if the Soviets stopped subsidizing Havana’s communist regime. Neither Moscow nor Fidel were amused.
After the Soviet Union’s collapse, I was sent by Freedom House to Geneva to attend hearings held by the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights. The Czechs and others who had recently liberated themselves from Communism were pushing for a resolution condemning Havana’s abominable human rights record.
At the Palais de Nacion, I met with human rights organizations and diplomats and was shocked to discover that Cuba and a coalition of the world’s worst human rights abusers were working together to prevent passage of the resolution. Democratic governments alerted me that “the votes were not there” and some American diplomats in attendance insisted the “matter should be left to professionals.” They openly resented inexperienced interlopers like me.
Not knowing better, I called then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and explained the situation. He told me to call him back in a few hours. I did and learned that the National Security Council was looking into the matter. It was not until the resolution was approved that I also learned of President Bush’s intervention. He had called several heads of state to express the White House’s support for the resolution.
Now that George H.W. Bush has died, millions of Americans will remember his patriotism, honesty and leadership. I was honored to have met him a few times. I remember his good cheer at the White House family quarters surrounded by several barefoot, very young grandchildren.
I doubt that many obituaries are likely to mention President Bush’s support for Cuba’s freedom and its people, but CubanAmericans will never forget. May President George H.W. Bush rest in peace.
Cuban-Americans will never forget how President George H.W. Bush stood strong for a free Cuba, writes Frank Calzon.