Speech by Ambassador Roger F. Noriega
Campaign News | Saturday, 4 October 2003
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
Speech by Ambassador Roger F. Noriega
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Institute for Cuban Studies
October 4, 2003 - Miami, Florida
As prepared for delivery.
Good morning. I want to thank Jaime Suchlicki for bringing us together and
inviting me to speak today. For many years Jaime has been a voice for those
who are struggling in Cuba for the most basic human rights, and I commend
him and all of you for your steadfast dedication to that noble cause. As
for myself, I have the great honor to represent an Administration led by a
President who is wholly committed to the cause of Cuban freedom.
Since September 11th, President Bush has demonstrated his resolve that the
United States be the champion of the cause of liberty and defend its values
and interests in the Global War on Terrorism. I can confidently state that
the same principles and resolve motivate the President's policy toward the
Castro dictatorship, and, in my view, the Cuban people have no greater ally
than President George W. Bush.
The Darkness Before the Dawn
These are certainly dark days for the Cuban people. Castro's most recent
round of repression and summary executions have underscored the ruthlessness
of his regime -- a dictatorship that we know is propped up only by one man's
insatiable lust for power and callous disregard for human suffering.
We know Castro for what he truly is -- by his plentiful words and by his
awful deeds, by his acts of violence against the people of Cuba and his
deadly interventions in other nations, and by the disregard for human
dignity that is the original sin that most dictators take to their graves.
When His Holiness Pope John Paul II made his triumphant journey to a newly
free Nicaragua in 1996, he called that country's decade of oppression by
Castro's Sandinista surrogates a "long dark night." Cuba's night has been
even longer, and darker. But I believe that historians will recall these
years as the darkness before the dawn in Cuba.
Today, we are at a critical point in our common cause. We already know
outcome of the struggle for freedom in Cuba. We know that freedom will be
victorious, just as it was in Russia and Eastern Europe. Those apparatchiks
who tried to repackage and salvage bankrupt regimes were overwhelmed by the
desire for genuine change.
No doubt, Castro and his acolytes are using these remaining days to divide
those of us who share a commitment to the cause of a free Cuba. They are
convinced that they can buy a few more terrible days in power if they can
sow doubt about our strategy or our solidarity. Castro is desperate to
divide the democratic opposition both on the island and here in the United
States. We have fresh evidence of this fact. Castro's secret police go to
great lengths to subvert the democratic opposition.
The Stalinist show trials last April may have sent dissidents to jail, but
it is Castro's regime that stands convicted before the world. And history
will not absolve him.
We know that Castro has used agents here in the United States to undermine
our security and our resolve. Ana Montes was working for Castro sowing
discord and spinning webs of lies within our intelligence community for 16
years, until we put her away. Even before that incident, we uncovered an
active spy ring with the mission of scouting U.S. military installations, creating dissention in exile groups, and conspiring to place Americans in
One of those spies was involved in the Brothers to the Rescue murders, and
we sent him away for life. And the pilots who pulled the trigger and the
man who gave the direct order -- Rueben Martinez Puente, the former head of
the Cuban Air Force - have been indicted and will face justice.
Since September 2002, we have detected and expelled a total of 18 Cuban
spies from the United States. In all of this, Castro is implicated before
world opinion. And the world will not absolve him.
These actions serve to hold Castro accountable. It is precisely because of
the vigorous efforts of the Bush Administration that Castro is more
desperate than ever to pull us apart and to undermine our confidence. To be
sure he wants his opponents on the island and in the exile community
doubting one another rather than dogging his regime.
Shining the Light of Freedom on Castro's Dictatorship
Let there be no doubt that the cause of freedom in Cuba never had a more
steadfast ally than President George W. Bush. He has made the commitment to
a free Cuba, and it is my responsibility - and my honor - to implement that
policy through concrete, timely measures. In this, I welcome your advice, and I want your help.
President Bush's Initiative for a New Cuba has succeeded in demonstrating
for all the world the implacability of Fidel Castro. President Bush
challenged the dictator to play by the rules of his own constitution and
allow the Cuban people to vote on undertake political and economic reforms.
We offered to match incremental steps toward freedom and open markets by the
Government of Cuba with proportionate steps to ease our sanctions.
It was no surprise that Castro rejected this reasonable proposal out of
hand, bullying the Cuban people into a pitiful petition drive to declare the
socialist nature of the Cuban government "immutable."
Undaunted, President Bush wants the United States to help lead the way to
democracy in Cuba. We will work with the international community to help
the Cuban people put an end to the dictatorship and to carry out political
and economic reforms that are wide enough and deep enough to sweep away the
vestiges of Castro's tragic experiment.
The embargo is one tool of our policy, and it is a tool that we will not
surrender. Rather than make unilateral concessions to a dictator drawing
his last breath, we will reserve that tool as a lever to ensure that the
Cuban people, not Castro's cronies, will be running Cuba.
Rather than giving a $1 billion windfall that would be generated by U.S.
tourist travel, we will save those resources for the day when they will go
to the Cuban people, not their jailer.
The President has made it clear, therefore, that he will veto any attempt to
weaken the prohibitions on travel and trade that might allow the Castro
regime to prolong or to tighten its stranglehold on the Cuban people.
Furthermore, we are ensuring that permitted travel to Cuba is consistent
with the President's policy of meaningful interaction between Americans and
Cubans that will encourage development of independent civil society.
To that end, we have eliminated so-called "non-academic educational
exchanges." It had become clear that these trips were subject to
manipulation by the regime and that many tours were nothing more than thinly
disguised tourism. For example, golf outings masquerading as religious
exchanges are a thing of the past. People-to-people is still in; golfer to
caddy is out.
With Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control and other agencies, we are
working to step up enforcement actions against those who travel in violation
of the law. We are strictly monitoring sales of agricultural commodities to
ensure that they strictly comply with the law and that there are no
inappropriate contacts or transactions.
The Bush Administration's goal is to aid and encourage those brave souls on
the island who are chipping away at the walls of the regime everyday and
letting the light of freedom shine in. Much of what we are doing might
sound routine or mundane, but it is vital.
The simple practices of everyday life that we take for granted in the United
States are important symbols of defiance and resistance to the regime in
Cuba and will accelerate and shape the democratic change the Cuban people
Of course, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana has kept up its leadership
in supporting the opposition. The work of Jim Cason and the rest of his
Foreign Service team in Havana makes me proud to be a taxpayer.
* Through USINT and U.S. grantees, we have
worked together to distribute about two million printed items, 1,000
magazine subscriptions and more than 10,000 AM/FM/SW radios.
* More than 150,000 pounds of food and
medicine have been provided to the families of political prisoners and other
victims of repression.
* USAID grantees have helped establish more
than 100 independent libraries inside Cuba, and have published via the
Internet more than 18,000 reports from Cuba's independent journalists.
The Bush Administration has also increased the reach and effectiveness of
our broadcasting capabilities with Radio and TV Martí. Our goal is simple
but awesome: We want stations that are worthy of Jose Martí. You are
probably aware that the President appointed a new and dynamic Office of Cuba
Broadcasting director, Pedro Roig. Pedro has instituted more popular and
attractive programming, including Major League Baseball, and undertaken the
first-ever tests of satellite and airborne transmissions to the island. We
want to make the Office of Cuba Broadcasting the most effective possible
exponent of political awareness and democratic change on the island.
Building a Coalition for Democratic Change In Cuba
The Bush Administration also has raised the political awareness of publics
and governments around the world as to the brutality of the Castro regime
and the plight of the Cuban people. I believe this change in world attitude
toward the Castro regime is yet another sign that its end is near.
The courageous efforts of democracy and human right advocates, journalists, labor leaders and others in Cuba have caught the attention of a world-wide
audience. The imprisonments and the summary executions perpetrated by
Castro in April provoked outrage everywhere, including from many who long
had been admirers of the regime. That Castro runs a dictatorship that
denies Cubans their basic rights was certainly no surprise to us. But for
many, it was a revelation.
Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago, a dedicated Communist
and previously an apologist for the Cuban revolution, put it succinctly.
Reacting to Castro's crackdown, he wrote, "This is as far as I go ... to
dissent is a right."
Noted Chilean author and Castro supporter Carlos Franz announced last July
that he was turning down the Jose Marti Journalism Prize. He said he could
not accept a journalism award purporting to support freedom of expression
from Cuba, while authors and some 20 newsmen rotted in Castro's prisons.
Some of the most potent criticism has come from leaders who experienced the
full weight of communist government themselves. Former Presidents Vaclav
Havel of Czechoslovakia, Arpad Goncz of Hungary and Lech Walesa of Poland --
each a product of his own country's progress from repression to democracy --
wrote that despite the risks, "the voices of free-thinking Cubans are
growing louder, and that is precisely what Castro and his government must be
Since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of free men and women from
communist tyranny who can testify to the crimes of those states against
their people, it is apparent to everyone that so-called "revolutions" are
frequently no more than vehicles for corrupt power mongers.
Support for Castro is drying up. Latin American nations led the effort at
2003 UN Human Rights Commission to win approval for a resolution on Cuba.
Since April, there has been an unrelenting drumbeat from the European Union
and others of criticism and demands for justice.
Frankly, we want more Latin American governments speak up for democracy in
Cuba and against the repression. And we want them to speak more clearly.
As Secretary Powell at the OAS General Assembly: "How could we, as a
Community of Democracies which has seen what we have been able to achieve in
this hemisphere over the last fifteen or twenty years, fail to speak out
with respect to what Castro is doing to his people?"
So, we will make every effort to work multilaterally and globally, maintaining the intensity and breadth of international support for the Cuban
Ladies and gentlemen, just a few days ago, a trendy crowd in Paris was
chanting "Cuba si, Castro no." When the Bush Administration and the French
Communist Party both condemn Castro's repression, you know that Castro is in
This is a crucial time for the cause of a free Cuba - a time for all of us
to put differences aside for the good of that great cause.
The reasons are clear: Our allies, especially in Europe, see the regime for
what it is, and they are insisting on democratic change like never before.
Even more encouraging is that Cubans of conscience with a commitment to
democracy and reform are working day by day for change. The Bush
Administration will work with you to do everything we can to support them.
The best news is that the crackdown did not crush the opposition, but rather
has imbued remaining activists with a new sense of urgency and purpose.
Oswaldo Payá has reconstructed his network of civil society activists. And
stories of regime abuses of ill political prisoners like Raul Rivero and
Marta Beatriz Roque provide additional motivation for these Cubans of
To quote again from Havel, Walesa, and Goncz, "the internal opposition is
getting stronger, it has not been brought to its knees by the police
round-up last March, times are changing, the revolution is getting old and
the regime is getting nervous."
He has reasons to be nervous, and here's why: Castro is terrified by a
Cuban-American community that is confident and united. He dreads an
American President that he cannot blackmail or bully. And he knows that
these two forces working together will sweep away every trace of his wicked
President Bush is committed to seeing the end of the Castro regime, and the dismantling of the apparatus that has kept it in power. We are moving swiftly and inexorably toward that goal.
It is more important than ever before that we must remain united and steadfast in our common cause.
Thank you for your time and attention. I will be happy to take any questions you may have.