Bush plan for Cuba called crazed

Campaign News | Friday, 7 May 2004

Bush plans to spend $59 million on subverting Cuba in next two years

HAVANA May 7: Cuba's government denounced new U.S. recommendations meant to replace communism here as "maniacal and crazed" while some Cubans complained that the ideas would further separate them from relatives.

A government statement published by the Cuban daily Granma ridiculed the recommendations of a US presidential commission that called for subverting the planned succession in Cuba from President Fidel Castro to his younger brother, Raúl, as well as further choking the flow of funds to Cuba.

"It constitutes a flagrant violation of the human rights of 11 million Cubans it wants to surrender through hunger and illness," it said.

The measures "also constitute a violation of the rights of citizens of Cuban origin in the United States" by restricting their ability to visit and aid family members, according to the Cuban statement.

The statement appealed to the concerns of Cuban-Americans for their relatives on the island, noting that the regulations would restrict visits and shipments of funds to uncles, aunts or cousins.

"In the future, a cousin, an aunt or another close relative will not be, according to President Bush, a member of the family," it said.

Arriving on a flight from Miami at Havana's international airport, Gladys Ruiz and her relatives embraced in reunion, weeping as they kissed one another repeatedly. "I have my children here. I can't wait three years," she said.

"Politics shouldn't be mixed with families," said Carmen Brito, a 56-year-old Cuban waiting at the airport to greet her 77-year-old mother from Miami.

With aging parents, "how am I going to wait so much time?" she asked.



Bush regime tightens blockade

Article by By Jim Lobe of antiwar.com

May 7: Six months before an election in which the state of Florida may again play a decisive role, US President George W Bush on Thursday announced new measures to tighten the 44-year-old US embargo on Cuba and hasten what he called "democratic change" on the Caribbean island.

Most of the measures, which were urged by an interagency commission that released its 500-page report of specific policy prescriptions, are designed to reduce the flow of money and visitors, including Cuban-Americans, from the United States to Cuba.

But they also included using up to 59 million dollars over the next two years for public diplomacy, overcoming the jamming of US government radio and television broadcasts to Cuba, and providing support for "democracy-building activities," including helping pro-democracy activists and supporting family members of dissidents who have been imprisoned by the government of President Fidel Castro.

On the other hand, the administration decided against reducing the 1,200-dollar-a-year ceiling on remittances by Cuban-Americans here to their family members in Cuba, a step that was widely anticipated.

It was decided at the last moment that such a move risked alienating a significant part of the Cuban-American community, according to one Bush regime official. But at the same time, the administration capped visits by Cuban-Americans to family members to one every three years, a step that some warned could also hurt Bush's popularity in the community.

"It is a strategy that says 'we're not waiting for the day of Cuban freedom, we are working for the day of freedom in Cuba',” Bush said in a statement during a short meeting with members of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which was coordinated by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega.

Critics of Bush's Cuba policy denounced the plan as politically motivated and potentially counterproductive.

"It's a farce, pure political theater," said Wayne Smith of the Center for International Policy (CIP), who served as head of the US Interest Section in Havana under former President Jimmy Carter (1977-81). "It will be a nuisance, but it's not going to have a significant effect."

"Obviously, we support the expansion of democracy in Cuba," said Rachel Farley, Cuba program officer at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), "but history has shown that assistance to dissidents puts them at risk of being painted by the Cuban government as subversives working with the US This type of assistance helped land 75 dissidents in jail in March, 2003," she added.

Bush, whose brother Jeb is Florida's governor, has long sided with hard-line anti-Castro elements in the Cuban-American community, and has strongly opposed recent efforts by majorities in both houses of Congress to ease the embargo by, among other things, scrapping all restrictions on US citizens who want to visit the island.

US agricultural and pharmaceutical exporters and Cuba activists had succeeded by the end of the presidency of Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, in poking two big holes in the embargo by approving exemptions on sales of food and medical supplies.

Last year's arrest of so-called dissidents, almost all of whom had been publicly courted and supported by the US Interest Section in Havana and the recent diplomatic tiff between Cuba and Mexico has encouraged the Bush regime to think that the Cuban government is isolated and fragile.

Bush henchmen had already taken a number of steps to tighten enforcement of the embargo, notably by prosecuting individuals known to have traveled to Cuba without a Treasury Department license and denying licenses to certain kinds of travelers, notably students, who had previously been permitted to go.

Under the moves announced Thursday, those kinds of restrictions will be further tightened; one official said, for example, that educational licenses will be even more difficult to obtain. Similarly, the Bush regime said it will step up enforcement and "sting operations" against "mules" who carry money or other supplies to Cuba illegally. In that connection, baggage limits will also be strictly enforced.

More controversially, the Bush regime will limit family visits to Cuba to one trip every three years under a specific license to visit only immediate family members, a classification that is narrower than previous policies. It will also reduce the authorized amount Cuban-Americans or other US visitors can pay for food and lodging while in Cuba - from 164 dollars a day to only 50 dollars a day.

The Bush regime also said it will work harder through international organizations, notably the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the International Labor Organization, to help dissidents with training or other kinds of support.

Of the 59 million dollars the Bush regime intends to commit to "democracy-promoting" activities in Cuba, up to 36 million dollars will be allocated for the support of dissidents and their families, and "to help youth, women and Afro-Cubans take their rightful place in the pro-democracy movement."

Up to 18 million dollars will be devoted to ensuring regular airborne broadcasts into Cuba of Radio and Television Marti through the use of C-130 aircraft that will fly over international waters close to the island.

Another five million dollars will be used for "public-diplomacy efforts" to disseminate information abroad about Cuba's human rights record, its alleged espionage and subversion against other countries and its "harboring" of terrorists.

Noriega told reporters Wednesday that Washington will try to enlist other countries in the same or similar efforts.

But Smith said all of those steps would likely make little difference, noting that of two million tourists who visited Cuba last year, only 10 percent were US citizens, and most of them were Cuban-Americans who were still likely to travel there. Per diem limits on food and lodging mean, "you may not be able to stay at the Hotel Nacional," he added.

WOLA's Farley suggested the new measures will also add to the administrative burdens of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC), which is also responsible for tracking the financial networks of the al-Qaeda terrorist group and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Now OFAC only has four employees tracking terrorist financial networks, while nearly two dozen track violators of the Cuban embargo for unlicensed travel or bringing back too many cigars," she noted, adding, "the enforcement of these new measures will inevitably detract from pursuing our real enemies."

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Below we reproduce what the White House Press office said.

For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 6, 2004

Fact Sheet: Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba

The objectives of United States policy towards Cuba are clear:

Bring an end to the ruthless and brutal dictatorship; Assist the Cuban people in a transition to representative democracy; and Assist the Cuban people in establishing a free market economy. To achieve these objectives, the President created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba with a mandate to identify:

Additional measures to help the Cuban people bring to an end the dictatorship; and Elements of a plan for agile, effective, and decisive assistance to a post-dictatorship Cuba. In response to the mandate to support the hastening of democratic change in Cuba, the Commission recommended an integrated approach which pairs a more robust and effective effort to support the opposition in Cuba with measures to limit the regime's cynical manipulation of humanitarian policies and to undermine its survival strategies.

Immediate Actions:

Hastening the End of the Cuban Dictatorship

The President has directed that up to $59 million over the next 2 years be committed to implementing key Commission recommendations including: Up to $36 million to carry out democracy-building activities, support for the family members of the political opposition, and to support efforts to help youth, women, and Afro-Cubans take their rightful place in the pro-democracy movement; Up to $18 million for regular airborne broadcasts to Cuba and the purchase of a dedicated airborne platform for the transmission of Radio and Television Mart into Cuba; and Provide $5 million for public diplomacy efforts to disseminate information abroad about U.S. foreign policy, including Castro's record of abusing human rights, harboring terrorists, committing espionage against other countries, fomenting subversion of democratically-elected governments in Latin America, and other actions which pose a threat to United States national interests. The President has also directed that the following actions be taken to deny resources and legitimacy to the Castro regime: Eliminate abuses of educational travel programs through tighter regulations; Counter the regime's manipulation of our humanitarian policies by: Limiting recipients of remittances and gift parcels to immediate family members, while denying remittances and gift parcels to certain Cuban officials and Communist Party members; Stepping up law enforcement and sting operations against "mule" networks and others who illegally carry money; Limiting family visits to Cuba to one trip every three years under a specific license to visit immediate family (grandparents, grandchildren, parents, siblings, spouses, and children) (new arrivals from Cuba would be eligible to apply for a license 3 years after leaving Cuba); and Reducing the authorized per diem amount for a family visit (the authorized amount allowed for food and lodging expenses for travel in Cuba) from $164 per day to $50 per day (8 times a Cuban national's likely earnings in a 14-day visit). Neutralize Cuban government front companies by establishing a Cuban Asset Targeting Group made up of law enforcement authorities to investigate and identify new ways hard currency moves in and out of Cuba; Support and work with NGOs and other interested parties to help Cuban citizens access the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and to provide in-country training to help to prepare claims for the IACHR; Ensure that Cuban independent labor representatives are able to engage with the International Labor Organization, and to draw attention to exploitative labor conditions in Cuba and to assist Cuban workers in obtaining redress; and Target regime officials for visa denial if they (1) are or were involved in torture or other serious human rights abuses or (2) provided assistance to fugitives from U.S. justice. The President has directed the establishment of a Transition Coordinator at the State Department to facilitate expanded implementation of pro-democracy, civil-society building, and public diplomacy projects and to continue regular planning for future transition assistance contingencies. Plans to Assist a Free Cuba Transition to Democracy and a Free Market Economy:

The Commission has worked and will continue to work with interested parties to develop recommendations to help the Cuban people recover the lost decades of the Castro years. These recommendations are not a prescription for Cuba's future, but an indication of the kind of assistance the international community should be prepared to offer a free Cuba. These recommendations will serve as the basis for a process of engagement with other countries, and international organizations to ensure that they too are prepared to support a Free Cuba. The recommendations outline how the United States could assist a free Cuba to: Consolidate the transition and build a strong democracy based upon democratic institutions, the rule of law, and respect for human rights; Meet the basic needs of the Cuban people in the areas of health, education, housing, and human services, while the Cuban people sweep aside the consequences of decades of cynical decisions by the regime to concentrate resources on sustaining the repressive apparatus; Create the core institutions of a free economy, unleashing the creative potential and entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban people which have for too long been stifled by the regime; Modernize infrastructure so that it can support humanitarian efforts and the growth of a modern, vibrant economy; and Recover and safeguard its environmental assets and ensure that they are put to use for the benefit of the Cuban people.

For the Entire Commission Report visit: http://state.gov/p/wha/rt/cuba/

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