Castro 'loses' in US, Caribbean elections
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cuban President Fidel Castro "lost" two elections in the past fortnight as candidates he openly supported in both Jamaica and the United states went down to stunning defeats.
Moreover, he must be disappointed over the results of elections in Puerto Rico and on the Turks and Caicos Islands, where candidates favorable to Cuba were given a sound electoral drubbing.
It makes little difference that Cuba was not the top issue in any of these campaigns. Castro had hoped that he would be able to develop closer ties with both Jamaica and the US in the months head.
There undoubtedly is a good deal of soul-searching under way in Cuba to determine what went wrong and what Cuba's Caribbean strategy should be in the wake of the outcomes of all four elections.
Here is the scorecard as seen by Havana:
* On Jamaica, Prime Minister Michael Manley, Dr. Castro's close friend, was swamped in parliamentary voting Oct. 30 by Edward Seaga and the Jamaica Labour Party, who received a mandate form Jamaicans to turn the island away from close ties with Cuba.
* US voters Nov. 4 ignored Dr. Castro's assertions that Jimmy Carter would be a better choice -- and gave Ronald Reagan a landslide victory that will likely put improvement in Cuba-US relations on hold for some time to come.
The Cuban leader made several moves widely interpreted as direct efforts to help the Carter reelection campaign -- he ended the sealift that swamped Florida with Cuban refugees, released 33 US citizens from Cuban jails, sent two Cuban plane hijackers back to the US for prosecution, and warned that a Reagan presidency would be dangerous for humanity."
* On the same day, Puerto Rican voters dealt a sharp blow to two pro-independence parties that had the active support of the Cuban leader. Although he expected to win at least 10 percent of the vote in the four-way gubernatorial race, Ruben Berrios Martinez won just over 5 percent, and Puerto Rican Socialist leader Juan Mari Bras's pro-Cuba party picked up less than 1 percent of the vote, also far less than expected. It is nuclear at this writing whether incumbent Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo or former Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon won the election, but in either case the vote was against the independence for the island. Cuba had supported independence. The vote for Romero Barcelo and Hernandez Colon together was almost 94 percent of the total votes cast.
* Finally, on the Turks and Caicos Islands, just to the east of Cuba, voters on Nov. 4 overturned a government that spoke guardedly of developing ties with Cuba -- choosing instead Progressive National Party leader Norman B. Saunders, who said in his campaign that ties with US are more important than those with Cuba.
These returns come on the heels of earlier votes in the English-speaking Caribbean in which governments less than enthusiastic about building ties with Cuba were either elected or confirmed in office.
Less than a year ago, Washington was increasingly concerned about growing Cuban influence in the Caribbean. Pro-Cuba Prime Minister Maurice Bishop had come to power in a coup d'etat on Grenada and there was concern that other Caribbean islands, particularly the English-speaking ones, would go the same road.
The elections this year suggest that this will not be the case -- at least for the moment. But the Caribbean is still a tinderbox, and major political, economic, and social problems in this area on the US doorstep will face the Reagan administration when it takes office in January.