Cuba's Communist dictator Fidel Castro was hospitalized for what news reports describe as a gastrointestinal illness. He has ruled Cuba since seizing power from the government of Fulgencio Batista in January 1959. Temporarily replacing him is his handpicked successor, his brother Raul, Cuba's defense minister.
In a written statement, the White House says, "The imposition of Raul Castro on the Cuban people is a continuing denial of the Cuban people's right to freely choose who will govern them." White House spokesman Tony Snow says President George W. Bush "hopes the Cuban people will one day finally enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy":
"The one thing we want to do is to continue to assure the people of Cuba that we stand ready to help.... A few weeks ago there was another report from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, where we talked about a number of things, including a compact with the people of Cuba for the day in which they no longer live under the boot of tyranny. And we will be ready and eager to provide humanitarian and economic and other aid to the people of Cuba."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the United States has made clear its "policy with respect to Cuba":
"We fully support a democratic, free, prosperous Cuba in which the Cuban people have the opportunity to, through the ballot box, choose who to lead them, not have their leaders imposed upon them."
State Department spokesman McCormack says that the U.S. "believe[s] that the Cuban people aspire and thirst for democracy and given the choice that they would choose a democratic government, that they would choose the option of being able to choose their own leaders."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.