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MAKING LIFE TOUGH FOR CUBA'S CASTRO

Fidel Castro, who once fancied himself the wave of the future, is now the primary puddle in a post-Cold War mopping-up operation. To stress this point, Congress has passed the Cuban Democracy Act, further tightening the longstanding U.S. economic embargo of Castro's Cuba.

Havana's hard times derive partly from the 30-year-old U.S. embargo and standard socialist bumbling, but they've incalculably worsened since Russia yanked its $6 billion-per-year aid on Jan. 1.The dictator's chief aim now is to obtain enough hard currency to prop up the faltering Cuban economy - and hang on. The Cuban Democracy Act would deftly counter that strategy. First, it would bar trade between Cuba and U.S.-owned overseas companies (transactions that now total $700 million annually). It also would prohibit foreign ships that trade with Cuba from visiting U.S. ports. Washington is telling the world's shippers: Tie up in Havana or in Miami and Charleston and New Orleans; the choice is yours.

It is true that some Cuban dissidents oppose the act. But the anti-communist Cuban Democratic Coalition supports a tighter embargo, its members personally accepting the attendant pain to topple Castro.