Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush stood strong for a free Cuba

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Opinion - By Frank Cal­zon Frank Cal­zon is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cen­ter 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.

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