United States Prepared To Support Democratic Transition in Cuba

Washington – The goal of the United States is a free and democratic Cuba and America stands ready to provide substantial support to such a transition, says President Bush.

“It has long been the hope of the United States to have a free, independent, and democratic Cuba as a close friend and neighbor,” Bush said in an August 3 statement. “In the event of a transition in the Cuban government, we stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance as needed to help the Cuban people.”

In a statement issued by the White House, Bush added that the United States is closely monitoring events in Cuba following Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s temporary transfer of power to his brother Raul. 

“At this time of uncertainty in Cuba, one thing is clear:  The United States is absolutely committed to supporting the Cuban people’s aspirations for democracy and freedom.”

The president’s statement echoed an earlier statement issued by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

“We are ready to help Cuba through a democratic transition and are prepared to rapidly provide substantial humanitarian relief to support a genuine transition,” McCormack said in an August 3 statement. “The Cuban people can know that they have no greater friend than America and they can count on our support through the process of transformation to their democratic future.”

The July 2006 report of the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC) recently reaffirmed U.S. support for a hastened transition to democracy in Cuba. (See related article.)

As events unfold in Cuba, Bush and McCormack both encouraged the Cuban people to continue their efforts to pursue democracy. The president also called for international support for these efforts.

“I urge the Cuban people to work for democratic change on the island,” he said. “I encourage all democratic nations to unite in support of the right of the Cuban people to define a democratic future for their country,” added the president.

McCormack did not speculate on the health of Fidel Castro or on the motivation for the Cuban dictator’s decision temporarily to turn over power to his brother Raul, but he said the Castro regime is increasingly out of step with a Western Hemisphere that largely has embraced democracy.

“I don't have an assessment for you on Fidel Castro's health,” he said.  “I can only say that a transition to Raul Castro is just yet another imposition of this regime on the Cuban people of an authoritarian government that in virtually every way runs contradictory to the democratic values that you see in virtually every other country in the hemisphere.”

White House press secretary Tony Snow said August 2 that whereas the United States is eager to restore previously close ties with Cuba, Cubans and Cuban Americans should refrain from fleeing or flocking the island nation.

"It's also, however, important at this juncture to tell people "stay where you are," he said. "This is not a time for people to try to be getting in the water and going either way."

President Bush’s statement is available on the White House Web site.

The text of McCormack’s statement is available on the State Department Web site.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Cuba.