Bush Predicts Democracy In Cuba.
By Michael A. Fletcher and Glenn Kessler
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., June 6 -- President Bush on Monday urged nations
of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen their democracies by embracing
free-market economies and cracking down on corruption, while pointedly
predicting that Cuba will ultimately be swept up in the tide of liberty
that has engulfed other countries in the hemisphere.
"Democracy is the rule rather than the exception among nations in the
Americas," Bush told foreign ministers and diplomats from 34 countries
gathered here for the general assembly of the Organization of American
States, but "only one country in this hemisphere sits outside this
society of democratic nations -- and one day, the tide of freedom will
reach Cuba's shores as well."
Bush, who since becoming president has increased pressure on the
government of Cuban President Fidel Castro, quoted the 19th-century
Cuban writer and revolutionary Jose Marti in calling liberty a
birthright. "La libertad no es negociable," Bush said.
Bush's 13-minute speech also had some thinly veiled words for Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Castro who has become a hero in
parts of Latin America by casting the United States as an imperialist
power and who has stoked U.S. ire by nationalizing some businesses and
stifling political dissent.
Bush said countries of the OAS have a stark choice between two competing
visions: one that includes representative government, integration into
world markets and a faith in freedom, and another that seeks to roll
back democratic progress by "playing to fear, pitting neighbor against
neighbor and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their
Bush administration policy toward Venezuela has sometimes contradicted
its rhetoric on democracy. In 2002, the administration threw its weight
behind the political opposition in that country by calling for early --
and unconstitutional -- presidential elections. The administration
quickly modified its stance, calling for a referendum, something the
constitution does allow. Earlier, the administration raised doubts among
some about its commitment to democracy in the region when it quickly and
prematurely recognized a short-lived government that ousted Chavez in a
The relationship between the two countries has deteriorated further
recently as Chavez has talked about developing nuclear power
capabilities with the help of Brazil, Argentina and Iran. Also, Chavez
has threatened to sever diplomatic relations with the United States
unless it turns over Luis Posada Carriles, a CIA-trained anti-Castro
radical who is wanted in Venezuela for retrial on charges that he blew
up a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 people. Last week, Bush hosted
Maria Corina Machado, a top Venezuelan political activist, at the White
House; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also met with her Monday on
the sidelines of the conference.
The growing tensions between the United States and Venezuela have
dominated the session here, with Venezuelan officials and their allies
saying a U.S. proposal to bolster the OAS role in monitoring democratic
developments is aimed at Venezuela. "The proposal was generic,"
Venezuela's foreign minister, Ali Rodriguez, told reporters. "But
according to the reality in this moment, it seems as if it is aimed
against a single country."
Diplomats said the U.S. proposal will be greatly watered down, though
some sort of compromise is likely to emerge to address the U.S.
The United States had circulated a proposal that called for a
"mechanism" to monitor democratic trends, a phrase that a number of
countries viewed as an invitation for U.S. meddling. "Democracy cannot
be imposed. It is born from dialogue," Brazil's foreign minister, Celso
Amorim, told the assembly.
Amorim noted to reporters that for all the United States' concerns, a
recall referendum was held in Venezuela last year, watched by
international observers, and Chavez won handily.
Rodriguez, in his speech, said the OAS charter has a policy of
nonintervention and that "no country, no group of countries, no agency
or body can evaluate or correct the political situation in other
countries." He said that "we all have to abide by the fundamental
principles that gave rise to the OAS."
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, speaking with a small group
of U.S. reporters, said it was uncertain whether a consensus on the
American proposal could be reached before the three-day meeting ends
Tuesday. He indicated he thought the notion of a "mechanism" would
exceed the OAS charter, which allows intervention only at the invitation
of the country. But he said the general idea of watching developments in
OAS countries is useful and might leave the organization more prepared
But, despite the U.S. concerns about Venezuela, Insulza said he does not
see a similar need to inquire about political conditions there. "All
that we see in Venezuela is that groups and opposition say that the
separation of powers is not very clear," he said. "But we don't have a
full report on that."
Bush's address included a pitch for the Central American Free Trade
Agreement. He said the pact, which would sharply lower trade barriers
between the United States and five Central American nations and the
Dominican Republic, would help provide access to lower-priced U.S. goods
throughout the hemisphere, while expanding
markets for American business.
Source: The Washington Post
Tuesday, June 7, 2005