In an excellent, and unfortunately underreported speech earlier this week President Bush spoke at the US State Dept. about the US Cuba policy. He specifically complimented the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians for their support and encouragement of brave Cubans who oppose the Castro regime. An excerpt
Cuba's rulers promised individual liberty. Instead they denied their citizens basic rights that the free world takes for granted. In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs, to change houses, to travel abroad, and to read books or magazines without the express approval of the state. It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission. Neighborhood Watch programs do not look out for criminals. Instead, they monitor their fellow citizens -- keeping track of neighbors' comings and goings, who visits them, and what radio stations they listen to. The sense of community and the simple trust between human beings is gone.
Cuba's rulers promised an era of economic advancement. Instead they brought generations of economic misery. Many of the cars on the street pre-date the revolution -- and some Cubans rely on horse carts for transportation. Housing for many ordinary Cubans is in very poor condition, while the ruling class lives in mansions. Clinics for ordinary Cubans suffer from chronic shortages in medicine and equipment. Many Cubans are forced to turn to the black market to feed their families. There are long lines for basic necessities -- reminiscent of the Soviet bread lines of the last century. Meanwhile, the regime offers fully stocked food stores to foreign tourists, diplomats and businessmen in communism's version of apartheid.
Cuba's rulers promised freedom of the press. Instead they closed down private newspapers and radio and television stations. They've jailed and beaten journalists, raided their homes, and seized their paper, ink and fax machines. One Cuban journalist asked foreigners who visited him for one thing: a pen. Another uses shoe polish as ink as a typewriter ribbon.
Cuba's rulers promised, "absolute respect for human rights." Instead they offered Cubans rat-infested prisons and a police state. Hundreds are serving long prison sentences for political offenses such as the crime of "dangerousness" -- as defined by the regime. Others have been jailed for the crime of "peaceful sedition" -- which means whatever Cuban authorities decide it means.
As we speak, calls for fundamental change are growing across the island. Peaceful demonstrations are spreading. Earlier this year leading Cuban dissidents came together for the first time to issue the Unity of Freedom -- a declaration for democratic change. They hear the dying gasps of a failed regime. They know that even history's cruelest nightmares cannot last forever. A restive people who long to rejoin the world at last have hope. And they will bring to Cuba a real revolution -- a revolution of freedom, democracy and justice.
Now is the time to support the democratic movements growing on the island. Now is the time to stand with the Cuban people as they stand up for their liberty. And now is the time for the world to put aside its differences and prepare for Cuban's transition to a future of freedom and progress and promise. The dissidents of today will be the nation's leaders tomorrow -- and when freedom finally comes, they will surely remember who stood with them.
The Czech Republic and Hungary and Poland have been vital sources of support and encouragement to Cuba's brave democratic opposition. I ask other countries to follow suit. All nations can make tangible efforts to show public support for those who love freedom on the island. They can open up their embassies in Havana to pro-democracy leaders and invite them to different events. They can use their lobbies of the embassies to give Cubans access to the Internet and to books and to magazines. They can encourage their country's non-governmental organizations to reach out directly to Cuba's independent civil society.
Life will not improve for Cubans under their current system of government. It will not improve by exchanging one dictator for another. It will not improve if we seek accommodation with a new tyranny in the interests of "stability." America will have no part in giving oxygen to a criminal regime victimizing its own people. We will not support the old way with new faces, the old system held together by new chains. The operative word in our future dealings with Cuba is not "stability." The operative word is "freedom."
In that spirit, today I also am announcing a new initiative to develop an international multi-billion dollar Freedom Fund for Cuba. This fund would help the Cuban people rebuild their economy and make the transition to democracy. I have asked two members of my Cabinet to lead the effort -- Secretary Rice and Secretary Gutierrez. They will enlist foreign governments and international organizations to contribute to this initiative.
And here's how the fund will work: The Cuban government must demonstrate that it has adopted, in word and deed, fundamental freedoms. These include the freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of press, freedom to form political parties, and the freedom to change the government through periodic, multi-party elections. And once these freedoms are in place, the fund will be able to give Cubans -- especially Cuban entrepreneurs -- access to grants, and loans and debt relief to help rebuild their country.
The restoration of these basic freedoms is the foundation of fair, free and competitive elections. Without these fundamental protections in place, elections are only cynical exercises that give dictatorships a legitimacy they do not deserve.
The Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians know about the living conditions promised by a communist dictator and the actual living conditions because they lived it when they were part of the former soviet union. When freedom finally does come to the Cubans they will surely remember those who stood with them and those like the leftist American Library Association who didn't. Those US politicians who are not in solidarity with the Cuban dissidents Unity of Freedom effort should be ashamed of themselves.
Recently another diary at RS reported about freedom and economic growth in Estonia. I used the sources to compare the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians to a protege of Cuba, Venezuela.
Foreign Policy Globalization Index Rank out of 72 countries
Heritage Economic Freedom Index Rank out of 161 countries
Transparency International Corruption Perception Index Rank out of 179 countries