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5/10/04 - FREEDOM FOR CUBA - 2004-05-11

The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba has issued its report. It makes clear the objectives of U.S. policy toward Fidel Castro’s Communist regime. The Commission was set up in October and comes after Castro’s brutal March 2003 crackdown that resulted in long prison terms for seventy-five Cuban dissidents and members of civil society.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the U.S. hopes that the release of the report will encourage “nations across the globe [to] better support the efforts of the Cuban people to secure their right to democracy and realize their dreams for a better future.” This is in keeping with the Inter-American Charter, approved in 2001, which says that the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.

One of the proposals in the report is a plan to use U.S. planes, flying in international waters, to transmit signals from U.S.-funded Radio and T-V Marti broadcasts. This is aimed at overcoming the information blockade the Cuban government has imposed on its own people by jamming the broadcasts and preventing access to outside sources of news. The report also calls for reducing trips to Cuba by Americans and limiting gifts of money and goods to immediate family members in order to limit the amount of hard currency that ultimately ends up in government coffers. All gifts would be banned to Communist Party members and Castro regime officials.

President George W. Bush says that the U.S. is committed to a Cuba “free of tyranny”:

“It is a strategy that will prevent the regime from exploiting hard currency of tourists, and of remittances to Cubans, to prop up their repressive regime. It is a strategy that says we’re not waiting for the day of Cuban freedom. We are working for the day of freedom in Cuba.”

The report calls for spending fifty-nine-million dollars over the next two years to encourage the pro-democracy movement in Cuba. A large portion of the funds will be used to support efforts to help Cuban young people, women, and Afro-Cubans take their place in the pro-democracy movement. For nearly half a century, the brave people of Cuba have endured tyranny and repression, says President Bush. “Dictatorship has no place in the Americas.”