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Aiding Cuban People Part of U.S. Support for Democracy Worldwide

24 October 2007

New U.S. measures aimed at letting Cubans shape their own destiny

Washington -- The United States is initiating additional measures to speed a transition to democracy in Cuba as part of the American effort to back democratic change worldwide.

President Bush October 24 announced initiatives intended to help the Cuban people join the global shift away from totalitarianism.

Bush said in an address at the State Department that “the day is coming when the Cuban people will chart their own course for a better life.  The day is coming when the Cuban people have the freedom they have awaited for so long.”

The measures for Cuba are timed to coincide with the administration’s renewed call to the international community to support the democratic movement that is growing across the island nation.  That movement includes the spread of peaceful demonstrations against the Cuban regime, and the unity of leading Cuban dissidents who earlier in 2007 issued a declaration for democratic change.

The international community, the administration says, needs to be prepared for that “moment of change” in Cuba.

Bush said the United States is ready “right now” to help the Cuban people directly, “but only if the Cuban regime, the ruling class, gets out of the way.”

MEASURES FOR CUBA

The U.S initiatives for Cuba include licensing nongovernmental organizations and “faith-based” groups to provide computers and Internet access to Cuban students.

The United States also will invite Cuban young people to join a scholarship program called the Partnership for Latin American Youth.  Bush announced that initiative in March during his five-country visit to Latin America. (See fact sheet.)

The program includes English-language training, and gives thousands of young people a chance to study in the United States.  Bush urged the Cuban regime to allow Cuba’s young people the opportunity to participate freely in the program.

In addition, the administration is asking the U.S. Congress to approve $45 million in funding for Cuban democracy assistance.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rica and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez are leading the building of a U.S.-backed international multibillion dollar Freedom Fund for Cuba that would help the Cuban people rebuild their economy and make the transition to democracy.

Rice and Gutierrez serve as chair and co-chair, respectively, of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.  The Cabinet-level commission was created in 2003 to hasten a democratic transition in Cuba.  (See related article.)

The U.S. initiatives for Cuba can be achieved, the Bush administration believes, if the Cuban people are allowed to shape their own destiny away from the dictatorship of Fidel Castro and his younger brother Raúl, who have ruled the island since 1959.  Shortly before undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006, Fidel Castro handed over power in Cuba to his brother.

The administration stresses that it seeks peaceful change in Cuba, not armed rebellion.

While the United States continues to push for democratic change in Cuba, it will keep in place the American economic embargo on the Caribbean country begun in 1961 to deny resources to the Cuban dictatorship.  U.S. policy on Cuba is premised on getting assistance and support directly to the Cuban people. (See related article.)

The administration says that moving to democracy and freedom will allow Cuba to be part of the economic and political success stories of Latin America.  Cuba’s regime denies its citizens freedom of speech and press, and thwarts other fundamental rights such as changing jobs or addresses without the express approval of the state.

The oppression also subjects Cubans to neighborhood watch programs, which, as Bush said in his address, “do not look out for criminals, [but] instead monitor” their fellow citizens’ activities.  The sense of community and the “simple trust between human beings is gone” in Cuba, said Bush.

Global press advocacy groups condemn Cuba for jailing more journalists than any other country except China.  The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has put Cuba on its list of 15 countries that are "enemies” of the Internet.  The group said that being online in Cuba is a “rare privilege” and requires special permission from the ruling Communist Party.  When a user does manage to get connected, it is only to a highly-censored version of the Internet.  (See related article.)

Bush said Cuba’s “socialist paradise is a tropical gulag,” but added, “Even history’s cruelest nightmares cannot last forever.  A restive people who long to rejoin the world at last have hope and they will bring to Cuba a real revolution … of freedom, democracy, and justice.”

For additional information, see a transcript of Bush’s remarks and a related fact sheet.

Additional information on the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is available on the commission’s Web site.

For more information on U.S. policy, see Cuba.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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