COL Coleman flip-flops on Cuba

Senator now says U.S. trade embargo should remain

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., deserves credit for at least making a visit to Cuba, to see the island nation for himself.

Unfortunately, Coleman still wants to deny that opportunity to his fellow citizens.

Coleman, who during his Senate campaign last year advocated an end to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, returned from his visit apparently having changed his mind.

"Right now is not the time to get rid of the embargo," Coleman told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. "It's not the time to get rid of the travel ban." Coleman said he is against new trade and travel agreements with Cuba as long as the government of Fidel Castro holds political prisoners. What particularly disturbed Coleman was the jailing of 75 dissidents earlier this year.


Of course, Castro didn't just start throwing dissidents in jail this year. He has been doing it since he came to power in 1960. Surely, Coleman was aware of that during his Senate campaign -- and still argued in favor of dropping the trade and travel embargoes.

What's different now? Maybe the Bush White House, which is staunchly against any softening of the U.S. stance toward Cuba, applied pressure on Coleman, who is regarded as one of the Republican Party's rising stars.

Or, and this is what we'd prefer to believe, Coleman's visit to Cuba was an education. For Coleman, being on the ground on Castro's island may have moved Cuba from the abstract to the real. If that's the case, it only refutes his argument to forbid travel to and trade with Cuba.

Interaction between Cubans and Americans would provide humanitarian and economic benefits to both nations. Perhaps more Americans would come around to Coleman's newfound point of view, perhaps not. Or possibly Americans would come to see everyday Cubans, rather than Castro, as the people most affected by the boycott.

The United States has tried to isolate Cuba for 40 years and the regime there has not been softened. Retaining our hard stance on Cuba, as Coleman now advocates, is unlikely to produce the results he says he wants.

Interaction and dialogue, through trade and travel, are our best bets to influence the future of Cuba.

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