In response to:

Cuba, the US, and the Central American Mess from the May 27, 1982 issue

To the Editors:

The report by Professors Seweryn Bialer and Alfred Stepan on: “Cuba, the US and the Central American Mess” [NYR, May 27] is of some interest for an understanding of the current political crisis in the Americas. It is not difficult to understand the over-all thrust of the Bialer and Stepan argument for a thaw of cold war politics between the US and Cuba. However, the resurgence of a “Second Cold War” by the Reagan administration threatens to invalidate the spirit of their dialogue with the Cubans, and furthermore, the role of the crucial third party, the Soviet Union, is not fully addressed in the discussions. These and other qualified issues dealt with in the discussions with the Cubans are either vague or factually questionable.

One part of the exchange, which is obviously included as a side issue, is not particularly convincing and is in essence unsavory. Bialer and Stepan report that:

On Ethiopia, the Cubans say they differ with the Soviets over Eritrea. They consider that the Eritreans have a legitimate case against Ethiopia, and assert that Cubans do not participate as the Soviets do, in attempts to crush the Eritrean rebellion.

This assertion by the Cubans, which has also been stated elsewhere, is both curious and absurd. Either Bialer and Stepan did not care to ask the appropriate follow-up questions or have failed to recognize these self-aggrandizing but fallacious claims for what they are.

The Cubans may indeed have differences with the Soviet Union on the “legitimacy” of the Eritrean case, but it is not true that they “do not participate in attempts to crush” the twenty-year-old struggle for independence.

Since late 1978, the Cubans have been the mainstay of support for the self-styled revolutionary junta in Ethiopia. The Cubans both helped to crush the Ogaden rebellion and to turn back Somalia’s related aggression on Ethiopia. But once the Somalia threat had been solidly halted, the Cubans stayed and continue to maintain thousands of soldiers in the Ogaden front.

However sanguine the Cuban views on Eritrea may sound, the truth is that Cuba’s soldiers in the Ogaden and elsewhere in Ethiopia have freed the Ethiopian junta to direct its full-scale oppressive machinery over the Eritrean independence forces. Indeed, the Cubans are liable for the whole range of suffering of the Eritrean people whose sole crime is a “legitimate” quest for national self-determination. Further, the Cubans cannot be relieved of their role in Ethiopia. Their support for the dictatorship there has enabled the latter to crush the democratic opposition that flourished in the wake of the popular revolution of 1974.

The merits for a constructive dialogue between Washington and Havana are undeniable, but it is also necessary to recognize that misrepresentation of the facts as in the case of Eritrea and others, does not bode well for the Cubans or their friends….

Kassahun Checole

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, New Jersey

This Issue

November 4, 1982