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Keeping a Clear Eye on Havana

Powerful words from President Bush today in the Roosevelt Room of the West Wing:

A few weeks ago reports of the supposed retirement of Cuba’s dictator initially led many to believe that the time had finally come for the United States to change our policy on Cuba and improve our relations with the regime. That sentiment is exactly backward. To improve relations, what needs to change is not the United States; what needs to change is Cuba. Cuba’s government must begin a process as peaceful democratic change. They must release all political prisoners. They must have respect for human rights in word and deed, and pave the way for free and fair elections.

So far, all Cuba has done is replace one dictator with another. And its former ruler is still influencing events from behind the scenes. This is the same system, the same faces, and the same policies that led Cuba to its miseries in the first place. The United States is isolating the Cuban regime, and we’re reaching out to the Cuban people. We’ve granted asylum to hundreds of thousands who have fled the regime. We’ve encouraged private citizens and charities to deliver food and medicine and other assistance directly to the people of Cuba. As a result, the American people are the largest providers of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people in the entire world.

This assistance is easing burdens for many Cuban families. But the sad fact is that life will not improve for the Cuban people until their system of government changes. It will not improve by exchanging one dictator for another. It will not improve if we prop up the same tyranny for the false promise of so-called stability.

As I told the Cuban people last October, a new day for Cuba will come. And we will know when it’s here. We will know it’s here when jailers go to the cells where Cuban prisoners of conscience are held and set them free….Until that day comes, the United States will continue to shine a bright and revealing light on Cuba’s abuses. We will continue to tell the stories of Cuba’s people, even when a lot of the world doesn’t want to hear them. And we will carry this refrain in our hearts: Viva Cuba Libre.



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