Bush offers help to Cuba but only without Castro
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Published: July 11 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 11 2006 03:00
As Cuba prepares to celebrate the 80th birthday of Fidel Castro and the
eventual passing of his presidential powers to his younger brother, the
US has released its own plans for the island’s future – a pledge to help
Cubans attain democracy and a free-market economy.
President George W. Bush yesterday approved a “Compact with the People
of Cuba”, which promises support “as they move from the repressive
control of theCastro regime to freedom and a genuine democracy”.
The US said it would assist what it called a “Cuban transition
government” by providing emergency humanitarian aid, maintaining
electricity generation, rebuilding the economy and respecting “the right
of the Cubanpeople to be secure in their homes”.
Cuba’s Communist party is warned in a separate 90-page report that the
planned handover of power to 75-year-old Raul Castro “or other
undemocratic successors” would not bring stability. The report calls
Cuba a “destabilising force in the region” and accuses Venezuela’s
President Hugo Chávez of providing funding to enable Cuba to reactivate
networks aimed at subverting democratic governments.
Led by Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, and Carlos Gutierrez,
secretary of commerce, the report by the Commission for Assistance to a
Free Cuba sets out how the US would respond to requests for help by a
Cuban transition government.
Asked how such a government would come into being, US officials said
that was up to the Cuban people. The report does not mention “regime
change” but it explicitly offers support to Cubans who want to overthrow
their government. Ms Rice said the US would help those “who are willing
to push for freedom despite the consequences”.
The US also leaves open the possibility that a post-Castro government
would turn to it for help. The US would only respond if there was a
genuine commitment to implement free elections and a free-market economy
within 18 months. No mention is made of possible US military
intervention, although a separate classified annex to the report was not
Caleb McCarry, the State Department’s Cuba transition co-ordinator, said
the report included a recommendation on how to “assist the Cuban
security forces” during the envisaged transition. He declined to comment
on possible US military involvement.
Meanwhile, the US will spend an additional $80m (£43m) supporting Cuban
civil society and broadcasting, while tightening up enforcement of its
unilateral embargo and restrictions on US citizens visiting Cuba. “This
is about the president’s freedom agenda,” Mr McCarry said.
Political analysts in Washington said it was also about securing the
crucial support of the exiled Cuban community in Florida ahead of
mid-term congressional elections.
The Financial Times Limited 2006