President Bush Announces A Series Of Measures To Support Growing Democratic Movements In Cuba
Today, President Bush announced measures to help prepare Cuba for transition to a democratic future, including a new initiative to develop an international multi-billion dollar Freedom Fund.
- The President has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to lead the effort to form the Freedom Fund by enlisting foreign governments and international organizations to contribute. This Fund would help the Cuban people rebuild their economy and make the transition to democracy. It would give Cubans access to grants, loans, and debt relief to rebuild their country as soon as Cuba’s government demonstrates that is has adopted, in word and deed, fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom to form political parties, and the freedom to change their government through periodic, multi-party elections.
- The President also announced measures that the United States government is prepared to take right now to help the Cuban people directly – but only if Cuba’s ruling class gets out of the way.
- If Cuban rulers will end their restrictions on Internet access for all of the Cuban people, the U.S. is prepared to license nongovernmental organizations and faith-based groups to provide computers and Internet access to Cuban students.
- If Cuban rulers allow them to freely participate, the U.S. is prepared to invite Cuban young people whose families suffer oppression into the Partnership for Latin American Youth Scholarship Program, designed to help them have equal access to greater educational opportunities.
- The President highlighted family members of political prisoners in Cuba who have been jailed for nothing more than their beliefs.
- Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso was arrested for writing ideas that the Cuban authorities did not like, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
- Jose Luis Garcia Paneque was sentenced to 24 years in prison for daring to speak the truth about Cuba’s regime.
- Omar Pernet Hernandez is serving 25 years in prison for being an advocate of freedom and human rights and was punished for his beliefs.
- Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero was arrested and is serving time inside a Cuban prison, charged with crimes against the state after defending the human rights of his countrymen.
- The President also mentioned leading dissidents such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Normando Hernandez Gonzales, and Omar Rodriguez Saludes.
- Opening their embassies in Havana to pro-democracy leaders and inviting them to events;
- Using the lobbies of their embassies to give Cubans access to the Internet, books, and magazines; and
- Encouraging their country’s nongovernmental organizations to reach out directly to Cuba’s independent civil society.