By Brandon Hall (Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com) The following is from Richard McLellan, posted online a few days ago:
"If you are wondering whether the opening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba will lead to improving human rights and freedoms in Cuba, let’s hope the experience in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria can be repeated.
25 years ago, President George H.W. Bush sent me to Bulgaria as a Presidential Observer to the first free election since 1931. The People's Republic existed from 1946 to 1990, when the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) ruled, as part of Comecon, a Soviet ally during the Cold War, and a member of the Warsaw Pact. In 1968, Bulgaria participated in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia and was generally regarded as the Soviet Union's most loyal Eastern European ally. In 1984, the dictator, Todor Zhivkov, launched a campaign of forced assimilation against the ethnic Turkish minority, who were forbidden to speak the Turkish language and were forced to adopt Bulgarian names (even changing names on graves).
But moderate elements in the Communist Party saw Zhivkov’s action as leading to making Bulgaria a pariah state, removed him and called for free elections.
President Bush and the European Union sent official observers to the elections as a sign of confidence that the Prime Minister, Petar Mladenov, and the ruling Communists (who renamed themselves Socialists) were genuine about a free election. We traveled throughout the country and saw the emerging desire to join Europe and leave the crumbling Soviet bloc.
Bulgaria rapidly joined the West, and while its politics don’t meet the highest democratic standards, it remains today a free, democratic country, a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe; a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and has taken a seat at the UN Security Council three times.
Bulgaria hosted six KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft and 200 support personnel for the war effort in Afghanistan in 2001, and allows the U.S. to use air bases considered as among the most important overseas facilities used by the USAF due to its proximity to the Middle East.
If Cuba decides to follow a path to freedom and economic engagement, Bulgaria offers a model."
According to Wikipedia, McLellan, a top adviser to Gov. Snyder, has a deep history of community involvement:
"McLellan is a participant in many community service organizations. He is a member of the Board of Governors for the Cranbrook Institute of Science; McLellan is a founding member of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank operating in Michigan for over 30 years, and sits on the Board of Directors. He currently is on the Board of Directors for the Cornerstone Foundation, the Native Nations Foundation, the Oxford Foundation, the Mackinac Center for public Policy, and the Michigan Political History Society. He is the former President of the Library of Michigan Foundation and the Michigan/Japan Foundation, the Arthritis Foundation Michigan Chapter, and the City Club of Lansing. He is a former Member of both the Lansing Mayor's Regionalization Initiative and the Lansing Mayor's Council of Economic Advisors. He is also a former Chairman of the Board of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce."
__________________________________________________________ Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.