Cuba vows to defy US efforts for change on island

Campaign News | Friday, 15 December 2006

From the International Herald Tribune newspaper

HAVANA: Cuba vowed to defy U.S. efforts for economic and political change on the island in a front-page editorial in the Communist Party's newspaper that also referred to Cuban dissidents as "mercenaries" and "counterrevolutionary puppies."

Members of the U.S. government "should not fool themselves," Thursday's editorial said. "The Cuban government and people will take charge, as they've done until now, of guaranteeing the complete failure of these plans ... to encourage the subversion and internal counterrevolution in our country," it said.

The editorial came on the eve of Friday's scheduled arrival in Cuba of a U.S. congressional delegation including Jeff Flake, of Arizona, and William Delahunt, of Massachusetts - the two lawmakers who requested a study reviewing U.S. funds for Cuba programs. Both congressmen advocate ending the United States' decades-old trade and travel embargo against Cuba.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has adopted even stricter policies aimed at squeezing the island's economy and pushing out the communist leadership.

Cuba is facing uncertainty with the island's longtime leader Fidel Castro ailing and out of sight. The 80-year-old has not been seen in public since July, when he temporarily handed power over to his younger brother Raul Castro so he could recover from intestinal surgery.

The elder Castro's failure to show up at his own delayed birthday celebration this month has fueled speculation that he is more sick than originally thought. Cuba has warned the U.S. government against trying to take advantage of the moment and Raul Castro has repeated his brother's warning that the island is prepared to defend itself against any U.S. aggression.

The U.S. administration has dedicated US$80 million (€60 million) to what it describes as the promotion of democracy in Cuba over the next few years.

The Cuba editorial addressed a recent report by U.S. congressional investigators that said the U.S. Agency for International Development did not always properly oversee Cuban aid grants and that coordination with the State Department was sometimes ineffective. Cashmere sweaters and chocolate were among the items bought with agency money, the study found.

The party newspaper criticized the American diplomatic mission in Havana for distributing books, medicine, clothes and shortwave radios to Cubans, saying the congressional report confirms that the U.S. Interests Section "acts like the central barracks of the counterrevolution."

The Cuban government frequently accuses dissidents of working with U.S. officials to undermine the island's system. That charge - denied by the dissidents and Washington - was used against 75 activists rounded up in the spring of 2003 and sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years.

"The poorly named dissident movement is no more than a group financed and directed by the U.S. government, true mercenaries ... at the service of the Cuban people's historic enemy: Yankee imperialism," the editorial said.

"No matter how much money they spend, they'll never be able to bend the will of the Cuban people," it added.

Under Raul Castro's rule, one of the 75 activists imprisoned in 2003 has been released from jail for health reasons, but tolerance for the opposition remains limited, with government supporters breaking up an attempt by a small group of dissidents to march in a Havana park on Human Rights Day, Sunday.

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