Posted on Fri, May. 07, 2004
Bush to tighten Cuba
sanctions, seek new funds.
By Nancy San Martín and Karl
The White House called for $45 million in new funding to hasten and
prepare for a democratic transition in Cuba.
WASHINGTON - President Bush on Thursday called for spending an extra $45
million over the next two years and tighter sanctions on Cuba to hasten
and prepare for a democratic transition on the communist-ruled island.
The new restrictions will cut back family visits to Cuba by Cuban
Americans from once a year to once every three years and tighten the
list of those on the island who can receive cash remittances and
packages from the United States.
Part of the $45 million will go toward the purchase of an airplane and
broadcasting equipment that may be able to break through Cuba's highly
effective jamming of Radio and TV Martí.
''We believe the people of Cuba should be free from tyranny,'' Bush said
at the White House while holding up a thick white folder with the
recommendations by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which
he created in October.
''This is a strategy that says we are not waiting for the day of Cuban
freedom. We are working for the day of freedom in Cuba,'' Bush added.
He was accompanied by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who headed the
commission, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and other
Cabinet-level officials involved in compiling the recommendations,
requested by Bush to speed up and prepare for a democratic transition in
''There can be no more doubt about the president's stance,'' said Rep.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. ``He is the best friend of the Cuban cause
that has ever passed through the White House. We are ecstatic.''
Bush has been criticized by Democrats for taking a tough stance on Cuba
as a way to earn Cuban-American votes in November, while others in the
exile community have complained that his policies have not been hard
The Kerry presidential campaign attacked Bush's decision as politically
``When John Kerry is president, he will fight for a free and democratic
Cuba every single day, not just when election time comes around.''
REACTION IN MIAMI
But in Miami, the reaction to Bush's announcement was less political and
more about family.
''He's forcing and reinforcing the same failed policy, but this time you
are really punishing the Cuban family,'' said Silvia Wilhelm, an
activist who favors closer ties to Cuba. She said the new restrictions
will ban her from continuing to send money to three cousins in Cuba.
Under the new rules, remittances can go only to grandparents, parents,
siblings, spouses, children and grandchildren.
Ninoska Pérez-Castellón, spokeswoman for the conservative Cuban Liberty
Council, said Cuban Americans who send remittances are helping to prop
up President Fidel Castro's government.
''It's not about being able to send your family money or being able to
visit your family,'' she said. ``There's 12 million people in Cuba and
not all of them receive funds from abroad or have relatives who visit
them. . . . It's about bringing freedom to all Cubans, not just a few.''
Joe Garcia, executive director of the Cuban American National
Foundation, said the group was especially supportive of Bush's pledge to
spend $36 million to support the dissident movement in Cuba and buy an
aircraft for Radio and TV Martí.
''After 3 ½ years we finally have a policy -- let's move on it,'' Garcia
said. ``There are people over there who need our help now.''
`A MIXED BAG'
Carlos Saladrigas, chairman of the moderate Cuba Study Group, called the
president's new policies ''a mixed bag'' and said that politicizing the
issue does little to help Cubans on the island.
''We need to learn to do things that hurt the government, but not at the
expense of the people,'' he said. ``That's a very delicate ethical
balance. We believe we need to help the Cuban people.''
But Bush administration officials portrayed the tighter sanctions as an
effort to reduce frivolous travel to the island.
''Sunbathers are not going to liberate Cuba,'' said Roger Noriega,
assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
The most volatile issue -- cash remittances -- remained intact at a
limit of $1,200 a year although they will be limited to immediate family
members and exclude Communist Party members.
Noriega said the report was unprecedented and represented an essential
part of the U.S. commitment to the Cuban population.
''For the first time ever, a U.S. administration has articulated a
definitive, decisive and integrated strategy,'' he said.
``It represents a national commitment to help the Cuban people bring an
end to the dictatorship and be prepared to support a democratic
transition in meaningful, explicit and specific ways.''
Noriega said most of the recommendations will be implemented within days
and that the $45 million to be spent over the next two years will come
from already allocated resources, eliminating the need to seek
congressional approval. The U.S. government now spends about $7 million
a year on Cuba programs.
The report consists of five chapters, the first outlining ways to propel
democratic change in Cuba and the other four recommending ways to help a
future government to provide basic services, establish democratic
institutions, implement a free-market economy and modernize
The report also discusses steps to prevent the planned succession in
Cuba under which power would pass from President Fidel Castro to his
younger brother, Raúl.
''Any post-Castro succession that perpetuates the regime's hold on power
would be completely contrary to the hemisphere's commitment to
freedom,'' Powell wrote in the report. ``There can be no reconciliation
between the United States and Cuba until far-reaching steps are taken to
ensure political and economic liberty on the island.''
Source: The Miami Herald