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China sí, Cuba no

Our Republican-lite President has struck again, using his allies on the right to push special treatment for those-who-would-be-wealthier through the House of Representatives. In securing permanent normal trading privileges for China, the last Communist behemoth, he has once again sold out human rights and labor leaders in exchange for pats on the back from Big Business.

As the Fat Cats and lobbyists savor their victory, relaxing in club chairs while drafting strategies to race through the Senate without stumbling on niggling details like suppression of democracy, trade in human organs, religious persecution, the rape of Tibet, jailing of political dissidents, mistreatment of labor and denial of basic freedoms, they're probably lighting up cigars - but not Cubans, at least not legally.

No, the rationale for expanding trade - and investment - with the world's last significant bastion of Communism doesn't seem to apply to those upstarts in the Caribbean.

And how come? If exposure to free market capitalism will tame the Maoists, why won't it do the same for the Fidelistas? What's good for the Chinese goose ought to be good for the Cuban gander, no?

Well, evidently not. Despite our growing ardor for the Chinese and Clinton's willingness to ignore their bloody closets, we continue to tut and cluck at Cuba's comparatively benign behavior (in no way meaning to suggest that Castro's regime has clean hands) and continue an embargo that deprives them of not only trade and tourism, but much-needed food and medical supplies.

Even Congressman George Nethercutt, Jr. (R-WA), in last week's New York Times (5/26), dings the illogic of this bifurcated thinking. Nethercutt, the author of legislation attempting to "lift all food and medicine sanctions on Cuba" and other so-called 'outlaw' nations (a term that raises the question of whether the Chinese are now are 'in-laws'), because they hurt American farmers and businesspeople, while, perhaps incidentally, undercutting American values. He says, "support American farmers and American values by allowing the export of food and medicine to currently sanctioned countries. If a normal trading relationship with China is a home run for America, then lifting these sanctions is the equivalent of a grand slam."

As an example of the incisive intelligence brought to bear in defense of our current, hopelessly benighted policy, Nethercutt cites the devastating retort of Senate Majority leader Trent Lott: "It's very easy to see the distinction" between trade with China and Cuba. "And if you all can see it, I don't know. Maybe you're just blind to it."

Maybe. Or maybe somebody's just plumb stupid.

Lott may have a point, though. There is blindness here. Ours. We have refused for years to see the glimmering paradox that our non-relationship with Cuba represents. And more to the point we have been conscientiously blind to the reasons for it. For years Americans were gulled to the point of vapidity by the constant anti-communist harangue used to justify our torture of the Cuban people. As communism crumbled, capitalism's need for continued growth has allowed for a 'new look' at the possibilites for change in formerly hated regimes. The fact that Cuba has remained outside the embrace of this new analysis is due to the political heft of the virulent anti-Castro Cuban power structure in Florida and New Jersey. When it comes to Cuba, these states are to American office-seekers what Taiwan is to China. And we kow-tow to both.

In short, fairness, logic, American values and sick children be damned; electoral politics and the struggle to put Florida and New Jersey in the "win" column on election day is the reason it remains China, sí, Cuba, no.

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