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6/12/03 - POWELL ON CUBA - 2003-06-13

Cuba's brutal Communist dictator Fidel Castro maintains an oppressive system that deprives the Cuban people of their livelihood and freedom. The Castro regime persecutes dissidents and human rights activists. Hundreds of political prisoners languish in Cuban jails. Independent journalists are harassed and intimidated.

In recent months, Castro has stepped up his repression. In the most notorious act of political repression in Latin America in a decade, at least seventy-five Cubans were convicted in kangaroo courts for demanding respect for fundamental rights. Those imprisoned include journalists, economists, and political activists.

The world is growing increasingly appalled by Castro's tactics. The fifteen-nation European Union recently imposed a series of new diplomatic measures against Cuba. The E-U announced it was taking the steps after the "deplorable actions of the Cuban authorities aiming not only at violating fundamental freedoms in Cuba, but also at depriving civilians of the ultimate human right, that of life."

The United States is seeking a united front in the Western hemisphere to push for peaceful change in Cuba. In an address to the Organization of American States, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell asked for Latin American support for imprisoned Cuban dissidents:

"The Inter-American democratic charter declares that the peoples of the Americans have a right to democracy. It does not say that the peoples of the Americas except Cubans have a right to democracy. My government looks forward to working with our partners in the O-A-S to find ways to hasten the inevitable democratic transition in Cuba."

The U.S. will continue to bring pressure on Castro's Communist regime for fundamental change. As Secretary of State Powell said, "If our experience over the last quarter-century in this hemisphere and across the globe has taught us anything, it is that dictatorships cannot withstand the force of freedom."