Tags: Bush | Keeps | Sanctions | Against | Cuba

Bush Keeps Sanctions Against Cuba

Monday, 20 May 2002 12:00 AM

The lifting of sanctions now, he said, would benefit only Castro and enrich those in his regime at the expense of the Cuban people, but initial steps could be taken now "that can put Cuba on the path of liberty.

"Full normalization of relations with Cuba – diplomatic recognition, open trade and a robust aid program – will only be possible when Cuba has a new government that is fully democratic, when the rule of law is respected, and when the human rights of all Cubans are fully protected," Bush said in a speech marking Cuba's 100th anniversary of independence.

"With real political and economic reform, trade can benefit the Cuban people and allow them to share in the progress of our times."

Bush said the United States recognized the path to liberty could be step by step. He indicated Washington would notice if Castro ensured next year's National Assembly elections were free and fair.

"The choice rests with Mr. Castro," Bush said. "Today I'm announcing an initiative for a new Cuba that offers Cuba's government a way forward, toward democracy and hope and better relations with the United States."

The announcement, made in the East Room of the White House, throws cold water on hopes expressed by former President Jimmy Carter and a bipartisan congressional panel, which called economic sanctions ineffective and recommended they be scrapped. It continues the policy of Bush's eight predecessors in the Oval Office – including Carter. The sanctions on trade and travel were enacted in 1963 in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis.

Bush, noting what he said was the Cuba people's courage and dedication to liberty, called Castro a "tyrant" with a "career of oppression."

"Today and every day for the past 43 years, that legacy of courage has been insulted by a tyrant who uses brutal methods to enforce a bankrupt vision. That legacy has been debased by a relic from another era who has turned a beautiful island into a prison," Bush said. "... He has exported his military forces to encourage civil war abroad. He is a dictator who jails and tortures and exiles his political opponents.

"We know this. The Cuban people know this. And the world knows this," he said.

Yet, Bush said, the United States realized freedom grows gradually, and as such he was leaving the door open to Castro and issuing a challenge on next year's election.

About 11,000 Cubans have signed a petition asking the dictatorship for a referendum on its power and freedoms, Bush noted. Now "Cuba has the opportunity to offer Cuban voters the substance of democracy and not just its hollow, empty forms."

He called on Castro to allow opposition parties to have access to the airwaves, called for the release of political prisoners and urged allowing independent, non-governmental organizations to monitor the balloting.

Those steps, he said, were a "minimum" to ensure a fair election.

"Meaningful reform on Cuba's part," he said, "will be met by meaningful U.S. response."

Bush said his administration was taking a number of steps to encourage reform in Cuba. Under the heading, "Initiative for a New Cuba," the United States will facilitate direct humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people through legitimate U.S. religious and non-governmental organizations.

The administration also would look at re-establishing mail service between the two countries and plans a scholarship program in the United States for Cuban students and professionals trying to build independent civil institutions and for family members of political prisoners.

The United States, he said, is no threat to Cuban sovereignty. The U.S. goal "is freedom for Cuba's people."

"We will continue to stand with you until freedom returns to the land you love," he said. "Viva Cuba Libre [long live free Cuba]."

The president was scheduled Monday to fly to Miami to again make remarks on Cuban independence and to attend a GOP fundraiser.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International

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The lifting of sanctions now, he said, would benefit only Castro and enrich those in his regime at the expense of the Cuban people, but initial steps could be taken now that can put Cuba on the path of liberty. Full normalization of relations with Cuba -diplomatic...
Monday, 20 May 2002 12:00 AM
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