U.S.-Cuba Tension: Battle of the Cojones

If there has been one constant in U.S.-Cuba relations for the past three decades, it's been the ever present cojones. Cuban revolutionaries have credited their cojones -- their balls -- for their ability to stand up to the incessant attacks of their powerful neighbor to the north. They have often invoked the image of a diminutive David fighting the mighty Goliath, noting that it is a David with a well-hung slingshot.The United States, incensed at Cuba's bravado, has thus become obsessed with defending its own manhood. There is certainly no other rational explanation for our country's fixation with Cuba. It is a tiny island of no importance in the world economy. With the end of the cold war, it poses absolutely no security threat to the United States, and it treats its citizens -- in terms of providing them with health care, food, and education -- infinitely better than most other Latin American governments.Nevertheless, eight U.S. presidents have felt obliged to strut their mighty stuff before Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has never been accused of lacking cojones himself. Poor Jimmy Carter -- never a particularly high-testosterone president -- had started to ease up on Cuba. But when Castro sent troops to help Angola fight the racist South African Army, Carter decided that Cuba's cojones had grown too big for its britches. After all, how dare the president of a puny island send troops to Africa? That's something only a country with big balls like the United States can get away with.Aggravating the U.S.-Cuba imbroglio is the impassioned Cuban American community, which has cojones up the wazoo. Just look at Brothers to the Rescue. Time and again members of the humanitarian-turned-anti-Castro radical group have violated U.S., Cuban, and international law by flying into Cuban airspace, buzzing Havana, and dropping antigovernment leaflets. Given that the group stubbornly continued to ruffle Castro's feathers, the fact that the old cock finally struck back should come as no surprise to anyone.When Madeline Albright, the U.S. United Nations representative, called the Cuban fighter pilots who shot down the Brothers' planes cowards and then strong-armed the U.N. Security Council into condemning Cuba before its foreign minister even arrived in New York, the Cuban American community applauded her manliness."Por fin cambi su sayita por un par de pantalones," callers told Miami talk shows -- "she finally traded her little skirt in for a pair of pants."And when Cuban foreign minister Roberto Robaina arrived in New York, his first remark was to set Albright straight about the cojones: We Cubans have never suffered from cowardice, he declared.Since the Brothers' planes were shot down Feb. 24, the bravado on both sides has gotten out of hand. To make political hay and atone for not having fought in the Vietnam War, President Clinton has signed new sanctions against Cuba that defy international trade agreements, including NAFTA, and incense our allies. The sanctions aim to stop all foreign companies worldwide from trading with Cuba. GOP candidate Bob Dole is calling for even more dramatic actions against Castro. And then there's Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), hallucinating that he's going to be the big brute who hammers the final nail in Castro's coffin.These politicos have succeeded only in making life more difficult for ordinary Cubans and bringing our country perilously close to a military confrontation.The battle of the cojones has raged for almost 40 years now. Enough is enough. It's time for U.S. and Cuban women to step in and tell the boys to stop fighting. It's time for U.S. and Cuban women to start a rational discourse that could lead to international reconciliation. That's why Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization, has formed Sisters to the Rescue, a hemispheric initiative to organize women in the Americas to work together toward a policy of dialogue and cooperation. It's time that the U.S. and Cuba start communicating through different body parts -- like our heads and our hearts -- and leave the cojones behind. For information on educational trips to Cuba and how to join Sisters to the Rescue, call (415) 255-7296.

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