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

Castro's crosshairs.

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

worried about."

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.

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