One of the great success stories of the past century is the advance of economic and political freedom across Latin America. However, one country in the region, says President George W. Bush, “still isolates its people from the hope that freedom brings, and traps them in a system that has failed them”:
“In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs, to change houses, to travel abroad, and to read books or magazines without the express approval of the state. It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission. Neighborhood Watch programs do not look out for criminals. Instead, they monitor their fellow citizens -- keeping track of neighbors' comings and goings, who visits them, and what radio stations they listen to.”
Cuba’s rulers, says President Bush, promised economic advancement but instead brought economic misery:
“Housing for many ordinary Cubans is in very poor condition, while the ruling class lives in mansions. Clinics for ordinary Cubans suffer from chronic shortages in medicine and equipment. . . .There are long lines for basic necessities -- reminiscent of the Soviet bread lines of the last century. Meanwhile, the regime offers fully stocked food stores to foreign tourists, diplomats, and businessmen in communism's version of apartheid.”
President Bush announced a new initiative to develop an international multi-billion dollar fund to help the Cuban people rebuild their economy and make the transition to democracy. But first, the Cuban government must adopt fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom to form political parties, and the freedom to change the government through periodic, multi-party elections.