The Sun Chronicle Newspaper
By JIM HAND / THE SUN CHRONICLE
ATTLEBORO -- The United States should leave it up to the Cuban people to determine their future when Fidel Castro dies, U.S. Rep. James McGovern said Wednesday.
McGovern, D-Worcester, said the worst thing the United States could do is to try to dictate to Cuba how to choose a new leader. Interference will only breed resentment and strengthen the hand of anti-democracy hardliners, he said.
McGovern was reacting to news that Castro, who is almost 80 years old, has ceded power to his brother, Raul, while recovering from abdominal surgery.
The Bush administration has said it already has drawn up a plan to bring democracy to Cuba once Fidel Castro dies.
Many Cuban exiles in Miami have said they intend to return to Cuba when Castro dies so they can reclaim land they have lost and take over power.
Some Miami activists have gone as far as to say they want to become the next president of Cuba.
McGovern said whenever the Cuban people believe they are being bullied by the United States, or threatened by exiles in Miami, they rally behind Castro.
Because the country has had a trade embargo on Cuba and greatly limited travel there, the United States has no relations with moderates and reformers who could become future leaders of Cuba, he said.
The best thing the United States could do now is to lift those restrictions, he said.
The congressman has made several trips to Cuba over the years and been active on a number of issues with the island nation, including efforts to restore Ernest Hemingway's home there.
He said Castro's legacy will be as a leader who came to power because of the repressive nature of the Batista regime, but who turned into a communist dictator who violated human rights.
McGovern said the Cubans he has spoken to over the years want a combination of the freedom democracy would bring, but a preservation of the universal health care and education Castro initiated.