Southcom chief wants review of Cuba policy
By PABLO BACHELET
WASHINGTON - The outgoing head of the Miami-based Southern Command, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, said Thursday he favors re-examining a longstanding ban on most contacts between the U.S. and Cuban militaries.
The comments came just days before President Bush is to receive a major report on U.S. policy toward Cuba, coordinated by the State Department but with inter-agency input, including the Department of Defense.
''I don't want to make a judgment on whether or not to change [the policy], but I think it needs to be re-looked,'' Craddock said in response to a question during a briefing for a small group of reporters.
Some of Craddock's predecessors at Southcom, in charge of U.S. military activities in most of Latin America, have voiced similar opinions, but only after retiring. The Bush administration and some of its predecessors have opposed military-to-military contacts with the island.
Critics of the U.S. ban have argued that the U.S. military should have regular channels of contacts with their Cuban counterparts, to allow for clear communications in case of instability on the island. U.S. and Cuban military officers meet regularly along the fence surrounding the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo, but those talks are focused on purely local issues.