Skip to comments.Sinn Fein leader risks furor with Cuba visit
Posted on 12/15/2001 10:25:46 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
MIAMI -- Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is scheduled to arrive in Cuba on Sunday for a controversial four-day visit that seems certain to alienate supporters in the United States.
The much-awaited trip was originally due to take place this summer, but was postponed after three people suspected of belonging to the Irish Republican Amry were arrested in Colombia on terrorism charges.
Plans to reschedule the visit appeared to have been scratched after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Although Cuba played no role in the attacks on New York and Washington, its government is officially listed by the U.S. State Department as a "state sponsor of terrorism." Also, while Cuban leader Fidel Castro condemned the suicide hijackings, he has since been one of the most outspoken critics of U.S. military action in Afghanistan.
Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, relies heavily on support in the United States -- especially in the New York area -- for fundraising. It also enjoys official recognition from the U.S. government as part of its commitment to the Good Friday peace accords.
The announcement of the Cuba visit prompted veiled criticism from the U.S. State Department on Thursday. "While we would prefer that he not visit Cuba this is entirely his decision to make," a State Department spokesman said.
But in recent days several prominent Irish-Americans have voiced strong opposition to the Adams visit, saying the republican cause should not be confused with Castro's communist system.
"Fidel Castro is a walking human rights violator," said J. Brian McCarthy, chairman of Irish American Republicans, a lobbying group. "We have supported Gerry Adams in the past and we will continue to support his efforts for peace and justice in the north of Ireland, but we will not allow him to go to Cuba and embrace a tyrant without comment."
The trip is planned to commemorate Cuban solidarity during the celebrated 1981 IRA hunger strike at the Maze prison. Ten strikers died in what became a major embarrassment for the British government over demands that IRA prisoners be given political status.
As well as meeting Castro, the Sinn Fein delegation will unveil a monument in memory of the hunger strikers.
Analysts say the visit is part of an attempt to improve Adams' international standing while peace talks drag on with the British government. The IRA has lately come under increased international pressure for dragging its feet over decommissioning its weapons, a key element of the peace process.
In October Adams made a similar visit to South Africa, where he met with former President Nelson Mandela. During that visit he also unveiled a sculpture on Robben Island to commemorate those who have died on hunger strikes in Northern Ireland and South Africa.
Analysts, however, say the merits of visiting Cuba are harder to see.
The trip will only serve to refocus debate over Sinn Fein's alleged involvement with left-wing Colombian guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, often known by its Spanish abbreviation, FARC. One of the three IRA suspects jailed in Colombia was Sinn Fein's unofficial representative in Havana, Niall Connolly.
Connolly and two others, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan, were accused of training FARC fighters in explosives and urban terrorism. Sinn Fein initially denied that Connolly belonged to the party. But Adams later confirmed that an internal investigation revealed Connolly had been working in Havana for a senior Sinn Fein executive, though without the party's formal approval.
Republican members of Congress are aghast over the political timing of the visit. This week, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said: "I've told Gerry for some time I think it's a mistake to go. It undercuts Sinn Fein's argument for human rights. Castro is a flagrant violator of human rights."
The House International Relations Committee is conducting an inquiry into links between FARC and the IRA with a view to holding hearings. The committee is looking into allegations that the IRA has had a four-year connection to the Colombian group, during which time some 30 high-ranking IRA members have visited Colombia.
The Bush administration has warned the IRA that there would be serious consequences for Sinn Fein's status in the United States if it were proven that the IRA has been helping the FARC.
Asked about his meetings with Sinn Fein, the White House adviser on Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, said recently: "I made it categorically clear that the U.S. had very big interests in Colombia in terms of money and personnel. And I told them, I never want the situation to arise where the help of the IRA leads to the death of a U.S. citizen."
He also laughed at claims that the three alleged IRA members held in Colombia had been studying the peace process in that country.
"They were there involved in discussions about matters which can only be associated with activities that would fall under the rubric of terrorism," he said.
Next week's IRA tour may be the most high-profile delegation to visit Cuba, but relations between the Cuban revolution and the republican cause stretch back many years.
In the past the Castro regime has given haven to on-the-run IRA members, including the former IRA fugitive Evelyn Glenholmes, who was linked to an IRA arms and explosives cache in the early 1990s.
WHILE CARACUS BURNS Sen. Dodd's petulance threatens national security--[Excerpt] Mr. Dodd knows that Mr. Reich would be confirmed if he got to the Senate floor, which is why he wants to block even a hearing. He and Latin America aide Janice O'Connell bear a grudge against the Cuban-American going back to their days on opposite sides of the battle over Central America. But rather than face that difference squarely, Mr. Dodd's strategy has been to smear Mr. Reich's reputation, accusing him in a letter to this paper of, among other things, being soft on terrorism. U.S. officials say the public record refutes those charges, which may be why Mr. Dodd doesn't want Mr. Reich to get his chance to make his case in the Senate. [End Excerpt]
Free Otto Reich[Excerpt] While the eyes of the world focus on the Middle East, the war on terror has its targets in this hemisphere, too. Unfortunately, President Bush's designated envoy to the Americas must fight this country's shadowy enemies with both hands tied behind his back. Otto Reich, Bush's nominee for assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, is being held hostage by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) who refuses to hold a confirmation hearing on Reich's candidacy. Dodd apparently would rather brood over Reich's performance in the Reagan administration than permit him to address these clear-and-present dangers today: Venezuela. Hugo Chavez, the increasingly erratic president of this key U.S. oil supplier, has declared himself "a Maoist" and befriended pro-terrorist dictators. A Caracas-based, anti-Chavez group called the National Emergency Coalition published a veritable Chavez photo album in the September 25 Washington Times. In one picture, Chavez rides in Saddam Hussein's Mercedes with the Iraqi thug at the wheel. During an August 2000 visit, Chavez called Iraq "a model" for Venezuela.
In another snapshot, Chavez hugs Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and says, "We have sister revolutions with equal struggles and the same destiny." Elsewhere, Chavez embraces Muammar Qaddafi and calls Libya "a model of participatory democracy." Chavez greets Fidel Castro as well and says that Cuba and Venezuela are "swimming together toward the same sea of happiness."
Chavez also appears to be arming Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels. Colombian defense officials say that between January 1998 and July 2000, they captured 470 clandestine FAL rifles stamped with the insignias of Venezuela's military and its arms manufacturers.
Cuba: Castro's worker's paradise seems to be a giant O'Hare Airport for suspected terrorists. As counterterrorism consultant Paul Crespo reported in the Nov. 5 issue of Insight, three Afghans detained in the Grand Caymans shortly after the September 11 attacks allegedly arrived there from Cuba. Two others, allegedly linked financially to al Qaeda, were stopped in Panama bound for Cuba. Snip
"I need Otto Reich in place," Secretary of State Colin Powell pleaded with senators on October 3. Eight weeks later, Reich's State Department office literally remains empty, its desk unoccupied and bookshelves bare. Even as an overworked career diplomat juggles crucial security and economic matters in Reich's absence, Dodd could care less.
"That nomination's not going anywhere. That's the end of it," Dodd recently snapped. He has hurled at Reich a number of easily refuted ethical charges pertaining to his 1980s service as director of State's Office of Public Diplomacy and as Ambassador to Venezuela. However Dodd will not let his subcommittee hear Reich defend himself. Perhaps Dodd fears looking foolish once Reich demonstrates his innocence. [End Excerpt]
Anyone in this country who still supports NORAID or similar Irish aid groups is no better than John "Taliban" Walker in my view.
Amen! This little trip to the terrorist winter spa, Cuba should be the nail in Fein's coffin! Then take out the head of Libya, Khadakrazy, who gave Fein free weapons, terror bombs and trained his killers for free in Libya! A few F14's and F18's off a carrier in the Med. could take out this Libian piece of trash, his evil family and co murderers. He knows it would be very easy. That is why he is suddenly anti terrorist!
I think we need to help Tony Blair on this. BTW, where has he gone? He was so everywhere just a couple of months ago.
He was a stand up guy when we needed him but now I see the British are asking us not to expand the war on terrorism.
There are many people who still think terror is the way to go and I think a lot of them are living near him.