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1/15/04 - CASTRO NOT WELCOME AT THE SUMMIT - 2004-01-20

The leaders of the Western Hemisphere’s thirty-four democracies gathered at the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, this week to promote prosperity, peace, and freedom in their region. Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the hemisphere’s only dictator, was not invited. Some might ask: why not?

Castro recently marked the forty-fifth anniversary of his takeover in Cuba by proclaiming that his Communist revolution has built “a new and more humane society with more experience, enthusiasm, strength, and dreams than ever.” But the fact is that Castro has maintained an oppressive system that deprives the Cuban people of their livelihood and freedom. His regime persecutes dissidents and human rights activists. Hundreds of political prisoners languish in Cuban jails. Independent journalists are harassed and intimidated. As President George W. Bush said at the Summit of the Americas, this repression must end:

“We must all work for a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. Together, we will succeed because the spirit of liberty still thrives, even in the darkest corners of Castro’s prisons.”

U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says President Bush offered to ease trade and travel restrictions if Castro enacted political and economic reforms in Cuba:

“He went out and he said, all right, we can even begin to change the nature of the relationship with Fidel Castro there, if Fidel Castro is prepared to allow his people some democratic exercise, for instance, in the parliamentary elections. And how did Castro respond to that? He responded with an even greater crackdown against dissidents -- a crackdown that has earned him the criticism of Europe and Latin America and countries worldwide.”

The leaders at the Summit of the Americas adopted an Inter-American Democratic Charter. It proclaims that the people of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it. That is why there was no room for Fidel Castro at the summit. As President Bush put it, “Dictatorship has no place in the Americas.”