Bush blasts Castro regime in Cuba

10/24/07 Mitch E. Perry
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In his first major policy speech on Cuba in four years, President George Bush urged Congress to maintain the economic embargo against the Communist nation, which in recent years has come under more scrutiny from some lawmakers.

Speaking at State Department in front a crowd of both that the New York Times described as almost evenly divided between Latin American diplomats to his left and Cuban exiles to his right, Bush ripped on the government led by Fidel Castro; it has seen a change in leadership but not in basic policies since Raoul Castro took over his brother’s regimes for health reasons over a year ago.

Bush also called out supporters of the Castro government, here in the U.S. and abroad, and said once the full nature of the government’s regime is documented, it will be stunning.

Fidel Castro, 81, stepped down from power over a year ago after he underwent intestinal surgery. His 76-year-old brother Raul has taken over, with little effect on the country’s policies.

As a means to persuade the Cuban leadership to become more democratic , Bush laid out a series of initiatives: creation of an international "freedom fund" to help Cuba's potential rebuilding of its country one day; U.S. licensing of private groups to provide Internet access to Cuban students; and an invitation to Cuban youth to join a scholarship program.

In case anybody was confused, President Bush said the transition from Fidel to Raul had made no difference to the Cuban people, and thus, made no difference to the U.S. government policy.

John Kavulich is with the U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a business group based in New York. He says one reason the Cuban government will reject the president’s overtures is that technology and education needs are now being provided by Venezuela and China.

Another organization is slamming the president for his speech. The Washington-based Center For Democracy in the Americas called it “ill-informed and unwise.” There is a debate already starting in Cuba about its future, and the government is already exploring reforms, the organization claims.

While we don’t know how extensive these reforms might be, we do know that the president’s policy keeps the United States on the sidelines as this debate takes place on the island. Our allies in Europe and the Hemisphere have a very different policy, because they know better, according to the Center for Democracy in the Americas.

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