"Working together for a free Cuba"




 Posted on Sun, May. 02, 2004

Report to offer U.S. guidance on Cuba policy

President Bush is expected to review a 500-page document with recommendations for hastening the arrival of democracy in Cuba.
By Nancy San Martin

A 500-page report on U.S. policy toward Cuba due at the White House on Monday recommends limiting Cuban-Americans' visits to the island, significantly cutting remittances and drastically reducing the money that U.S. visitors can spend there, activists familiar with the document said.

The recommendations by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba are the result of a six-month review ordered by President Bush to hasten and prepare for a democratic transition in communist-ruled Cuba.

The report from the panel, headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell, was the result of meetings with some 60 people and included suggestions from Cubans on the island who sent their contributions via e-mail.

State Department officials have been tight-lipped about the contents of the report, which Bush requested by Saturday but is not expected at his desk until Monday.

The White House announcement on which of the report's recommendations Bush will embrace is expected late this week.

Washington and Miami activists familiar with the document said it recommends putting ''more teeth'' into U.S. sanctions on Cuba but doesn't present any major new initiatives.

''Is there anything out of the box, that will blow people away? Not really,'' said a Washington official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

''I think a lot of people in Miami are going to jump up and down and applaud, but then the issue becomes: Are they really going to follow through?'' the official said of the administration.

The report is divided into five sections, the first dealing with hastening democracy and the others focusing on assistance once change occurs, according to the activists.

The first section outlines ways to strengthen the internal opposition on the island, disseminate news and other information to Cubans, and enforce economic and travel restrictions already on the books.

More hard-hitting recommendations are outlined in classified sections of the report, the activists said, though those suggestions did not include military action.

Commission members considered the idea of appointing a ''czar'' to oversee Cuba's democratic transition, the activists said, although it was not clear whether that will be be included in the report sent to the White House.

The Bush administration has been accused of trying to tighten sanctions on Cuba as a way to earn Cuban-American votes. But even the exile community has accused Bush of not following through on earlier promises to take a harder stance against President Fidel Castro.

The commission, though veiled in secrecy, already has earned some support by those seeking an end to Castro's rule.

''They've taken it very seriously,'' said Ana Navarro, a well-connected Republican lobbyist in Miami. ``What their main focus is is hastening the transition.''

The administration ''recognizes there is a lot of skepticism in this community regarding the commission,'' she said. ``Despite the environment of skepticism, they are working with great seriousness and care.''

Source: The Miami Herald