Mr. Diaz-Balart Goes to Washington

When an unsuspecting Colorado congressman tries to cut funding to Radio and TV Martí, the freshman lawmaker gives a taste of exile politics, Miami-style

Just last August, the Americas Watch and the Fund for Free Expression conducted a study within our borders of human rights and civil rights violations. These are organizations that traditionally tell us what is going wrong in other countries.

These two groups said that in Miami there was an abuse of human rights, documenting a campaign of intimidation and terror, and criticizing U.S. government encouragement primarily through funding of groups that are closely identified. And this group in particular, with efforts to restrict freedom of expression. And the principal example, says the report, is money granted to such groups as the CANF.

On the issue of Radio and TV Martí, I have stated before in public and taken extreme amounts of heat for it that this is an electronic toy created for this foundation to put forth their policies towards what the future of Cuba should be like.

If my colleague would permit, I think that if anybody in this country wants to get an electronic toy, they should get a Radio Shack credit card and not come here and get funded and then use this little toy to promote a policy without giving full support to people who may have a different view.

Now we are not discussing the policy of Cuba. Let us take a second to talk about that, because I think that is important. It is at the bottom of all this.

For 30-odd years we have had an embargo on Cuba. Radio and TV Martí are part of a failed policy. Why is it a failed policy? Simple, if the intent of all our acts on foreign policy toward Cuba was to bring about a political change, we failed. There has been no political change. The political change that may come will come as a direct result of political changes in the Soviet Union which can no longer assist the Cuban economy.

It was not our policy that created that, it was the lack of somebody else's future policy that created it.

As the gentleman has stated, in Miami right now there are about five radio stations that beam into Cuba on a daily basis. Those radio stations, because of the foundation's influence in Miami, I will tell the members, are not allowed to spend one minute of the day saying that anything positive could be going on in Cuba, or worse, that there could be a new American policy to solve the problem of the relationship between Cuba and the United States.

What is the need for TV and Radio Martí? Only that it is a tool for some people to stay in power, locally. These people make no secret about the fact that, should there be a political change in Cuba, they want to return and establish themselves as the new government. This is what we are talking about here.

The gentleman is courageous enough to stand up and say, "We are in a cost-cutting mood. These are changes that have to take place." For the first time this year, I joined the gentleman on the Committee on Appropriations and was saddened to see that, as a representative of the poorest district in the nation, the South Bronx, the poorest district in the nation, the monies were extremely short in talking about housing and social services and education.

Now we are spending all these dollars for what is a failed policy and a waste of time. He was correct in bringing up those questions. What he did not anticipate, perhaps, is that now he finds himself on the list of enemies for the CANF and the lack of tact, the lack of democratic principle to immediately put a press release into a member's district and to try to intimidate him in that way A they have a right to do that, this is a democracy. Unlike them, we believe that you can do that whenever you want, but we believe you can disagree.

The gentleman disagreed, and for that, they will try to make him pay a price. Again, welcome to the club. There are so many of us who, any time we turn on the radio, find attacks about what we stand for.

I want to really congratulate the gentleman for putting forth today's conversation, and to tell the gentleman that I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in making these questions and continuing to make these questions, and to alerting people, perhaps starting today, that there exists within our borders a group of people who have set policy A past administrations have allowed them to set policy toward Cuba, and that has to end: that they can become part of a lot of voices who will determine what the future of Cuba should look like including people who live in Cuba right now.

MR. SKAGGS: I am very grateful for the gentleman's comments. Let me just say, I do not think there should be any question or doubt left in the minds of anyone that may be listening to us this evening, that no one is here to suggest that anything but our wholehearted endorsement of the need for change in the government and the economic policies of Cuba. I want to make sure that there is no doubt about that. I am a strong supporter for free institutions there, as we all are elsewhere in the world.

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