CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Charles Rangel Discuss U.S.-Cuba
Policy; Dore Gold and Nabil Sha'ath discuss violence in the
Middle East; Russ Feingold and Mitch Mcconnell Discuss
Violence in the Middle East
Aired March 31, 2002 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT
BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[excerpt on Cuba only]
CROWLEY: Welcome back. We'll debate U.S. policy
toward Cuba in just a moment, but first here's
Fredricka Whitfield with a news alert.
CROWLEY: If the Bush administration gives the green light,
former President Jimmy Carter will travel to Cuba at the
invitation of Fidel Castro. A visit by Carter would make him
the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba since
America imposed an embargo against that communist island 40
The former president's impending visit is renewing debate
over U.S.-Cuba policy. Joining us now are two members of
Congress on opposite sides of this debate.
In Miami is Florida Republican Congressman Lincoln
Diaz-Ballart, and in New York, Democratic Congressman
Congressmen, welcome to Late Edition. Thank you so much for
joining us, particularly on this day.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Happy Easter, Candy.
CROWLEY: Happy Easter to you both.
Congressman Diaz-Ballart, let me just start with you and
say, after 40 years, isn't it about time to talk about
REP. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: No. It's
about time that the international community take seriously
a dictatorship that makes known its intention not to permit
any sort of democratic opening.
Just weeks ago, when President Fox was in Cuba, perhaps the
most respected dissident who's not in prison, Marta Beatriz
Roque, after meeting with President Fox, was stripped
searched, harassed, her house was ransacked and her
furniture destroyed. What is the international community
going to do?
This month, the European Union and Switzerland imposed a
freeze on the funds of Mr. Mugabe because of a flawed -- he
held a flawed election in Zimbabwe. Mr. Castro has refused
to hold any election in 43 years. At least we have a policy
saying that until he liberates political prisoners and holds
elections, there's going to be no normalization. What is the
international community going to do?
CROWLEY: Well, let me just take a pause right here and let
you hear what former President Jimmy Carter said recently on
the subject of lifting sanctions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... not
to punish the Cuban people themselves by imposing an embargo
on them which makes Castro seem to be a hero because he's
defending his own people against the abusive Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So, Congressman Rangel, the point being there that
basically what we have done is sort of make the U.S. look
bad over 40 years of sanctions, depriving the Cuban people,
and making Castro look good. You think it's time to go ahead
and lift this embargo.
RANGEL: I think that Lincoln has deep-seated personal and
political beliefs, and I respect him for it, but the embargo
and the isolation of Cuba is against our national policy.
The whole idea that a former president or any American
citizen has to get permission to travel, especially to the
Caribbean, is absolutely ridiculous.
But not having a normal trade and commercial relationship is
insulting to Americans to believe that they are fearful that
Americans are going to succumb to Communism. That's the
greatest thing that we got, our travelers, our merchants, to
sell our American way of life.
We believe that it's going to work in China. We believe that
it's going to work in North Korea and Vietnam. We believe
that it's working in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet
Union. But I know one thing, Candy, this has nothing to do
with common sense and reason. The real reasons why we don't
have normalization, whether it's a Republican president or a
Democratic president, is the Electoral College in Florida
and a handful of very political people who can make the
difference, as they did in last presidential election.
CROWLEY: Well, Congressman Rangel, I mean, this isn't the
only president that has been opposed to lifting sanctions
again Cuba, long before Florida become sort of a flash
political word, correct?
RANGEL: I said Democrat and Republican. But no, no, no, no.
It's always been, with the exception of the time they had
the Soviet missiles there where the whole country was
opposed to it, but, no, there is no former secretary of
state or assistant secretary of state that doesn't condemn
this policy. And yet, under Democratic presidents, they were
fearful that if they got this group antagonized in Florida,
that they could lose the election there. And let me tell you
this, that Al Gore, with his bumbling, did loss the election
CROWLEY: Congressman Diaz-Balart, let me pull you in here.
DIAZ-BALART: It's interesting...
CROWLEY: Go ahead.
DIAZ-BALART: Well, I think it's interesting that my
colleague talks about the Electoral College as the reason
why we have a policy of solidarity with the Cuban people.
I don't think it's related to the electoral college, that
the only terrorist state that is in this hemisphere is the
Castro totalitarian state. It's not related to the Electoral
College that that terrorist state has had over 15 spies,
captured and convicted in the last two years in the United
States, including a spy who, just days ago -- she was a very
high-ranking spies within the Defense intelligence agency in
Washington and she pled guilty and is, by the way, offering
very good cooperation and talking about many other spies
that exist here in the United States from the Castro
So on the terrorist state, just last week the State
Department said that the Cuban regime has a biological
weapons component that it has shared with other
anti-American terrorist states, and it's 90 miles away. It
has spies convicted by the dozens.
And of course, our opponents are saying that it's because
of the Electoral College that there's a concern with a
terrorist state in Cuba? The reality of the matter is that,
in addition to it being in solidarity with the Cuban people,
it's in the national interest of the United States for there
to be a Democratic transition in Cuba. And that's why
we say we don't want the embargo.
What we want is -- what we want is liberation, the
liberation of all political prisoners and the scheduling of
free elections. And then we'll be the first ones calling for
the end of embargo. Why don't we have our colleague, Charlie
Rangel, asking for the liberation of all political prisoners
and the scheduling of free elections, or, like in the case
of Zimbabwe, can you join me, Charlie, in calling for
Castro's assets to be frozen in Switzerland and in
London? I think that would be a good step.
RANGEL: Two hundred members of Congress disagree with you.
They believe that we should travel to Cuba. Over a majority
of the House and Senate has voted to allow us to sell food
to Cuba. In this hemisphere, we have Canada, Mexico, South
American countries and the Caribbean countries all wanting
to normalize relationship with Cuba. And so, it's a very
lonely struggle that you're fighting now.
I would say this, that we should demand democracy in Cuba,
the same way we demand to get it in China, that we should
really have our business people -- the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce wants to do business there. Two hundred churches
and social agencies want to go there. And we should not deny
food and medicine to the people in Cuba. And these people
love us. Even though we have a problem with Castro, we don't
have a problem with the Cuban people.
And best way to bring democracy is to talk with people. But
the whole idea that a former president has to get permission
to visit a small island in the Caribbean really shows how
ridiculous the policy is.
CROWLEY: Congressman Diaz-Balart, let me just see if
I can get you -- I just want to focus on a couple of things
Congressman Rangel has brought up, and that is, you know,
Americans can go to North Korea, they can go to Iran, and
they can't go to Cuba. And it does seem a little out of
Can you explain to me why that seems OK to you?
DIAZ-BALART: Well, we have something called geography and
something called history and something called differences.
The reality of the matter is that there is a national
interest in the United States for there to be a democratic
transition in a terrorist state that is 90 miles away. And
we don't think that it is appropriate to give billions of
dollars to that regime from the United States, until there
is a liberation of political prisoner and a scheduling of
elections. Because it's in our national interest for Cuba to
be a friendly democracy and not a totalitarian terrorist
So that's why there are differences in the world. There's
differences in geography and history and sociology, et
cetera. The only region that has a requirement in its
international law -- it's inter-American law that says that
only representative democracy is legitimate in this
So for legal reasons, for national security reasons, for
reasons of solidarity with the Cuban people, we have a
different policy with regard to a state that is terrorist
and that's totalitarian and that's anti-American 90 miles
away. No matter how much you want to whitewash this
issue, the reality of the matter is the only terrorist state
has had over 15 spies captured and convicted in this
country, including a very high ranking spy at the Defense
Intelligence Agency, who is now talking and talking about
other spies who have not been captured and soon will be, is
the Cuban regime.
The reality of the matter is that, while the world condemns
the dictatorship in Zimbabwe for holding a flawed election,
and now we see the European Union freezing the assets of the
dictator, Mr. Mugabe, why here, in the case of a 43-year-old
dictatorship that has not had any flawed election, it has
had no elections, is there a call for the end of all
sanctions and the giving of funds?
The reality is, we should end the double standard and say
the same standard we have -- I remember when my colleague
Mr. Rangel called for sanctions against the Haitian
dictatorship. I joined him. I remember when he called for
military action in the case of Haiti. I didn't go that far,
but I always supported the sanctions. And yet in the case of
Cuba, a dictatorship not of three years but of 43 years, and
he and others are seeking an end to all sanctions. And so,
I'm saying lets be consistent.
CROWLEY: Congressman Rangel...
DIAZ-BALART: Let's not have double standards.
CROWLEY: Congressman Rangel...
RANGEL: There's just one...
CROWLEY: ... let me just...
CROWLEY: ... I just want to -- go ahead and make that point,
but then I want you to answer this question.
RANGEL: I was just saying to Lincoln, not one country, not
in the Caribbean, not in Central or South America or Mexico,
not one country in the hemisphere, or the whole world for
that matter, agrees with anything that have said.
And so, why should America have an isolated view merely
because of the political concerns we have in Florida? I
mean, we cannot be that stupid that the whole world
disagrees with us.
DIAZ-BALART: No, Charlie, it's a difference -- look, the
reality of the matter is that, in the case of Cuba, in the
19th century, after the Cubans had fought for almost 100
years against European colonialism, it was only the United
States that stood with Cuba and helped through the Congress
of the United States...
RANGEL: Name the country that agrees...
DIAZ-BALART: No, what I'm trying to say is... RANGEL: ...
name the country, Lincoln, that agrees with you. I mean,
you're saying that it's a terrorist country...
DIAZ-BALART: Charlie, what I'm trying to say is...
RANGEL: ... they threaten our national...
DIAZ-BALART: ... what I'm trying to say is they...
RANGEL: Do they threaten our national security?
DIAZ-BALART: What I'm trying to say Charlie...
RANGEL: I mean, we're the leader of the whole world, and
you're asking... DIAZ-BALART: The ethical and moral leader
of the world, yes...
RANGEL: ... and you're telling me...
DIAZ-BALART: What I'm trying to say, Charlie, if I may, is
that there is an historic, as well as geographic, very close
relationship between the people of the United States and the
people of Cuba.
And when you're talking about the fact...
RANGEL: What's that got to do with the president going to
DIAZ-BALART: No, no, Charlie, Charlie, please. You're
beginning to interrupt too much. I don't interrupt you.
What I'm trying to say is that historic closeness is also
seen when we say with our policy, until there is liberation
of all political prisoners and people are not imprisoned
because of their beliefs in Cuba, until there is a
scheduling of re-elections, we are going to maintain our
RANGEL: OK, good.
DIAZ-BALART: And guess what? If the rest of the world
doesn't agree, we're proud of our policy. And it's...
RANGEL: OK, very good.
DIAZ-BALART: ... going to be very important in a transition
in Cuba. And then...
CROWLEY: OK, gentlemen, I have to...
RANGEL: But you didn't name one country, you know that,
CROWLEY: I'm sorry, I've got to interrupt the two of you
here. I'm so sorry. We have run out of time. You got to love
a debate where I don't have to ask a single question.
Thank you very much.
DIAZ-BALART: Happy Easter.
CROWLEY: Happy Easter to you all. Florida Congressman
Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Congressman Charlie Rangel, thank you
so much. Happy Easter to you both.
RANGEL: Happy Easter.