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Afghan invasion puts Cuba in third-world hot seat

Cuba has begun to feel the spinoff of Afghan developments. After waging the longest struggle ever for a seat on the United Nations Security Council -- a battle that began Oct. 26 and went through 154 indecisive ballots -- Cuba Jan. 6 abandoned the effort, apparently worried that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan would tip the odds in favor of its rival, colombia.

But more important than a seat on the Security Council is Cuba's worry that the Soviet action could trigger trouble for the Caribbean island's leadership of the third- world movement -- a leadership that was firmed up at the September meeting of the nonaligned nations in Havana when Cuba took over the chairmanship for three years.

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So far, Cuban President Fidel Castro has said nothing on the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Radio Havana and the Cuban press have limited themselves largely to reporting in brief and straightforward manner developments in Afghanistan.

For Dr. Castro, the Afghan situation parallels that of the summer of 1968, when he deliberated for days on what to say or do about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In that instance, the Cuban leader eventually came down squarely in support of the Soviet Union and has more or less been in the Soviet camp ever since.

Although the Afghan intervetion poses the same sort of dilemma for Dr. Castro , it puts him in more of a box that the Czech invasion did in 1968, since he now is playing such a major role among the third-world countries.

If President Castro tries to explain away the Soviet intervention as simply Soviet compliance with the request of the Afghan government, he runs smack into differing stances by the third world.

The Asian, African, and Latin American countries, as evidenced by their early comment on the Soviet action, see the intervention as "naked aggression," as Mexico City's Excelsior termed it. Some would not go quite so far in their criticism, but the general tone, particularly in Latin America, is negative.

To many hemisphere commentators, the Soviet role in Afghanistan is like the much- criticized earlier US role in Vietnam.

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Dr. castro was a bitter and determined critic of the United States on that issue, charging that the US put what he termed its "puppets" in power in South Vietnam. Some third-world commentary is suggesting that this is exactly what the Soviet Union has done in Afghanistan.

In Latin America, there is clear evidence of a widespread desire to apply sanctions on the Soviet Union for its action in Afghanistan. Many Latin American countries joined the unsuccessful US effort to get the UN Security Council to condemn the Soviets.

But the Afghan intervention also poses problems for third-world members of the nonaligned movement, for they see it as a possible threat to continuing viability of the organization. Members are reluctant, for example, to call a special meeting of the nonaligned nations because Cuba is chairman and thus wields great power within the organizational structure.


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