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Bush Announces Initiative for a New Cuba
by the President on Cuba Policy Review
Welcome to the White House for the 100th anniversary of Cuban independence.
Today we honor the ties of friendship, and family, and faith, that unite the
Cuban people and the people of the United States.
honor the contributions that Cuban-Americans have made to all aspects of our
national life. And today, I am issuing a proposal and a challenge that can put
Cuba on the path to liberty.
appreciate our Secretary of State being here. He and I take this issue very
seriously. He loves freedom as much as I love freedom. I want to thank Mel
Martinez, a graduate of Pedro Pan, for being here; Mr. Secretary, you're doing a
great job. Welcome.
appreciate members of the diplomatic corps who are here. Thank you all for
coming; I'm honored to have you here. I want to thank Senator George Allen from
the Commonwealth of Virginia. I want to thank Congressman Dan Burton; Mr.
Chairman. And, of course, two great members of the United States Congress,
people who have got a lot to offer, a lot of sound advice: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Thank you all for coming.
independence one century ago today was the inspiration of great figures such as
Felix Varela. It was the result of determination and talent on the part of great
statesmen such as Jose Marti, and great soldiers such as Antonio Maceo and
Maximo Gomez. Most of all, Cuba's independence was the product of the great
courage and sacrifice of the Cuban people.
and every day for the past 43 years, that legacy of courage has been insulted by
a tyrant who uses brutal methods to enforce a bankrupt vision. That legacy has
been debased by a relic from another era, who has turned a beautiful island into
a prison. In a career of oppression, Mr. Castro has imported nuclear-armed
ballistic missiles, and he has exported his military forces to encourage civil
is a dictator who jails and tortures and exiles his political opponents. We know
this. The Cuban people know this. And the world knows this. After all, just a
month ago the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in a resolution
proposed by the nations of Latin America, called upon Cuba's government to
finally -- to finally -- begin respecting the human rights of its people.
all their pains and deprivation, the Cuban people's aspirations for freedom are
undiminished. We see this today in Havana, where more than 11,000 brave citizens
have petitioned their government for a referendum on basic freedoms. If that
referendum is allowed, it can be a prelude, a beginning for real change in Cuba.
United States has no designs on Cuban sovereignty. It's not a part of our
strategy, or a part of our vision. In fact, the United States has been a strong
and consistent supporter of freedom for the Cuban people. (Applause.) And it is
important for those who love freedom on that beautiful island to know that our
support for them will never waver.
I'm announcing an Initiative for a New Cuba that offers Cuba's government a way
forward towards democracy and hope, and better relations with the United States.
scheduled to hold elections to its National Assembly in 2003. Let me read
Article 71 of the Cuban Constitution. It says, "The National Assembly is
composed of deputies elected by free, direct, and secret vote." That's what
the constitution says. Yet, since 1959, no election in Cuba has come close to
meeting these standards. In most elections, there has been one candidate,
elections in Castro's Cuba have been a fraud. The voices of the Cuban people
have been suppressed, and their votes have been meaningless. That's the truth. Es
la verdad. In the 2003
National Assembly elections in Cuba, Cuba has the opportunity to offer Cuban
voters the substance of democracy, not its hollow, empty forms.
parties should have the freedom to organize, assemble, and speak, with equal
access to all airwaves. All political prisoners must be released and allowed to
participate in the election process. Human rights organizations should be free
to visit Cuba to ensure that the conditions for free elections are being
created. And the 2003 elections should be monitored by objective outside
observers. These are the minimum steps necessary to make sure that next year's
elections are the true expression of the will of the Cuban people.
also challenge Cuba's government to ease its stranglehold, to change its
stranglehold on private economic activity. Political and economic freedoms go
hand in hand, and if Cuba opens its political system, fundamental questions
about its backward economic system will come into sharper focus.
the Cuban government truly wants to advance the cause of workers, of Cuban
workers, surely it will permit trade unions to exist outside of government
control. If Cuba wants to create more good-paying jobs, private employers have
to be able to negotiate with and pay workers of their own choosing, without the
government telling who they can hire and who they must fire.
Cuba wants to attract badly needed investment from abroad, property rights must
be respected. If the government wants to improve the daily lives of its people,
goods and services produced in Cuba should be made available to all Cuban
citizens. Workers employed by foreign companies should be paid directly by their
employers, instead of having the government seize their hard-currency wages and
pass on a pittance in the form of pesos. And the signs in hotels reading "Solamente
Turistas" should finally be taken down.
major steps by Cuba to open up its political system and its economic system,
trade with Cuba will not help the Cuban people. (Applause.) It's important for
Americans to understand, without political reform, without economic reform,
trade with Cuba will merely enrich Fidel Castro and his cronies.
ideas about trade will merely prop up this dictator, enrich his cronies, and
enhance the totalitarian regime. It will not help the Cuban people. With real
political and economic reform, trade can benefit the Cuban people and allow them
to share in the progress of our times.
Cuba's government takes all the necessary steps to ensure that the 2003
elections are certifiably free and fair -- certifiably free and fair -- and if
Cuba also begins to adopt meaningful market-based reforms, then -- and only then
-- I will work with the United States Congress to ease the ban on trade and
travel between our two countries.
reform on Cuba's part will be answered with a meaningful American response. The
goal of the United States policy toward Cuba is not a permanent embargo on
Cuba's economy. The goal is freedom for Cuba's people.
initiative invites the Cuban government to trust and respect Cuban citizens. And
I urge other democracies, in this hemisphere and beyond, to use their influence
on Cuba's government to allow free and fair National Assembly elections, and to
push for real and meaningful and verifiable reform.
normalization of relations with Cuba -- diplomatic recognition, open trade, and
a robust aid program -- will only be possible when Cuba has a new government
that is fully democratic, when the rule of law is respected, and when the human
rights of all Cubans are fully protected.
under the Initiative for a New Cuba, the United States recognizes that freedom
sometimes grows step by step. And we'll encourage those steps. The current of
history runs strongly towards freedom. Our plan is to accelerate freedom's
progress in Cuba in every way possible, just as the United States and our
democratic friends and allies did successfully in places like Poland, or in
South Africa. Even as we seek to end tyranny, we will work to make life better
for people living under and resisting Castro's rule.
I'm announcing a series of actions that will directly benefit the Cuban people,
and give them greater control of their economic and political destiny. My
administration will ease restrictions on humanitarian assistance by legitimate
U.S. religious and other non-governmental organizations that directly serve the
needs of the Cuban people and will help build Cuban civil society. And the
United States will provide such groups with direct assistance that can be used
for humanitarian and entrepreneurial activities.
government will offer scholarships in the United States for Cuban students and
professionals who try to build independent civil institutions in Cuba, and
scholarships for family members of political prisoners. (Applause.) We are
willing to negotiate direct mail service between the United States and Cuba.
administration will also continue to look for ways to modernize Radio and TV
Marti, because even the strongest walls of oppression cannot stand when the
floodgates of information and knowledge are opened. And in the months ahead, my
administration will continue to work with leaders all around our country,
leaders who love freedom for Cuba, to implement new ways to empower individuals
to enhance the chance for freedom.
United States will continue to enforce economic sanctions on Cuba, and the ban
on travel to Cuba, until Cuba's government proves that it is committed to real
reform. We will continue to
prohibit U.S. financing for Cuban purchases of U.S. agricultural goods, because
this would just be a foreign aid program in disguise, which would benefit the
initiative offers Cuba's government a different path, leading to a different
future -- a future of greater democracy and prosperity and respect. With real
reform in Cuba, our countries can begin chipping away at four decades of
distrust and division. And the choice rests with Mr. Castro.
there is only one nation in our hemisphere that is not a democracy. Only one.
There is only one national leader whose position of power owes more to bullets
than ballots. Fidel Castro has a chance to escape this lonely and stagnant
isolation. If he accepts our offer, he can bring help to his people and hope to
Mr. Castro refuses our offer, he will be protecting his cronies at the expense
of his people. And eventually, despite all his tools of oppression, Fidel Castro
will need to answer to his people.
Marti said, "Barriers of ideas are stronger than barricades of stone."
For the benefit of Cuba's people, it is time for Mr. Castro to cast aside old
and failed ideas and to start to think differently about the future. Today could
mark a new dawn in a long friendship between our people, but only if the Castro
regime sees the light.
independence was achieved a century ago. It was hijacked nearly half a century
ago. Yet the independent spirit of the Cuban people has never faltered. And it
has never been stronger than it is today. The United States is proud to stand
with all Cubans, and all Cuban-Americans, who love freedom. And we will continue
to stand with you until liberty returns to the land you love so well.
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