Profits before principle

viernes, 30 de julio de 2010


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Learning about BP's efforts to free the Libyan terrorist serving a prison sentence for his part in the 1988 bombing of the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, I came to appreciate the Bible's verse that says ``there is nothing new under the sun.''

Eight years after the Pan Am flight was blown up, four men flying two unarmed small Cessna aircraft, in a rescue mission in international airspace over the Florida Straits, were murdered by Cuban warplanes. The four, Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, died as the result of an international terrorist attack carried out in 1996 by Havana.

Three of them were American citizens, and one was a legal resident of the United States.

Now press reports indicate that BP put profit over justice in the case of the 270 souls -- 190 Americans -- who were murdered by Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship. The deaths, as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated, meant little to BP when compared with the profits it sought by getting access to Libyan oil. The British government now acknowledges it committed a grave error by releasing the terrorist.

That the crime occurred 22 years ago has not prevented the American people from condemning BP's disregard for the innocent victims.

Be that as it may, now the Texas Farm Bureau, the National Farmers Union and the chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., are working tirelessly to provide trade benefits, subsidies and export insurance, to be paid by American taxpayers, to the Cuban regime -- the regime that awarded medals to the air force officers who committed their barbarous act on the Florida Straits.

But the Cuban officers were not the only ones responsible for the crime. Cuba's minister of the armed forces at the time was Gen. Raúl Castro. U.S. courts sentenced several Cuban spies linked to the crime. These spies, mind you, were not like the recently exchanged Russian spies; the record shows that they were assigned by Havana to find sites on Florida shores suitable for the landing of arms and personnel, who presumably were not coming to the United States to engage in a humanitarian mission.

One, Gerardo Hernández, is serving in a life sentence in a federal penitentiary. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, espionage and other illegal activities. Another one of the spies, Juan Pablo Roque, fled to Cuba shortly before the two unarmed Cessna aircraft were shot down.

Today we face a well-financed and orchestrated campaign calling on President Obama to set all of the Castro brothers' spies free. And American companies selling to Havana believe that ``selling'' to Cuba equals getting paid, and that they are simply engaging in a business deal. Havana, however, is broke, and Spanish investors on the island are not permitted to withdraw their own funds from Cuban government banks, because of Cuba's liquidity crisis.

Furthermore, trading with Cuba is not like trading elsewhere: There are no Cuban businesses independent of the government, and the Castros believe that when they purchase American grain, they also purchase influence by American companies. Havana believes that those who sell to Cuba have a duty to advance the regime's interests.

The intersection between justice, American deaths and profits, is lethal to the U.S. national interest. BP played its part in the release of the man who murdered so many Americans over Scotland. American corporate interests would like to conduct business with Havana, as if the Castro brothers' hands were not soiled with American blood.

The headline in the Times of London read, ``Lockerbie bomber `set free for oil.' '' It remains to be seen whether the murderers of Americans in the Florida Straits will be ``set free for grain.''

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba in Arlington, Va.

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