What Gorbachev Planted in Cuba
BEYOND the smiles and bear hugs in Havana this week, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has sewn the seeds for major internal confrontation in Cuba. The division is not between Fidel Castro's communist regime and the anticommunist forces. Mr. Castro's police and intelligence network has the anticommunists pinpointed and under control.
The division is between Castro, who emerges from the Gorbachev visit as an outdated and ideologically obsolete Stalinist, and his younger cadres, under 45 years old, tempted by the reformist gospel of Mr. Gorbachev.
There are in Cuba some 900,000 Cubans who have studied in the Soviet bloc over the past 30 years. They are part of the elite. They are installed as party cadres.
Traditionally Castro has exerted heavy censorship over news that Cubans read and listen to. Ordinarily much of Cuba's news from the outside world comes from Radio Mart'i, the United States government radio station beamed at Cuba. Internally, Castro has blacked out discussion of liberalization in the Soviet Union, of glasnost and perestroika, and elections.
But this week, on Cuba's soil, over national television, Cubans heard Gorbachev himself detail the changes and support their desirability. Thousands of key party workers, schooled in the Soviet bloc and trained to respect Moscow's guidance, heard Gorbachev offer the example of reform within the communist system in which they are living.
Says a leading American expert on Cuba, ``What Gorbachev said will get a lot of receptivity among the cadres.''
Thus Castro, increasingly sensitive about maintaining control in a tired and lackluster Marxist state, must now be anxious about quelling dissent from within the party itself.
Though all of Gorbachev's comments were offered within a carefully constructed public fa,cade of Soviet-Cuban friendship, there were three clear areas of difference between Castro and Gorbachev.
First, addressing the Cuban National Assembly, Gorbachev delivered a lecture on his modern-day interpretation of Marxism-Leninism and the unavoidability of glasnost and perestroika. That is a philosophy rejected by Castro, who has hewn to old-style Marxism-Leninism and opposed any deviation. One observer in Cuba says, ``Gorbachev's remarks in Cuba may end up having as much impact as the Pope's when he visited Poland.''
Second, Gorbachev positioned himself in a much more conciliatory manner on third-world debt than did Castro. This is understandable. Gorbachev is unlikely to radically attack those Western banks from which he himself seeks indulgence.
Third, underlying the cleverly sculpted diplomatic words, there was a distinct difference in tone between Castro and Gorbachev on the use of military force in Latin and Central America, and on the export of revolution from communist countries. Cuba has been a principal supplier of military aid to Nicaragua, and to the Marxist forces in El Salvador. While the Soviet Union has been a major supplier of military aid around the world, including Nicaragua, and indeed may even be supplying new weaponry to Libya, it now proclaims itself opposed to the export of revolution.
Another negative outcome of the visit for Castro may be the spotlight foreign correspondents threw on Cuba's shortcomings. Ordinarily, visits to Cuba by Western correspondents are carefully scripted. This time, however, it was impossible to totally regulate several hundred Western correspondents there for the Gorbachev visit.
Thus, Cuba's transgressions against human rights, and the arrest of human rights demonstrators during the Gorbachev visit, were fully documented. So too were food shortages, housing deficiencies, and cautious expressions of dissatisfaction by Cubans interviewed.
All in all, Fidel Castro may just as soon have had Gorbachev stay home.