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Bush Wants Freedom Fund for Cuba


President Bush says Cuba's leaders are more concerned with keeping power than with improving the lives of their people. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush wants the international community to raise funds to help rebuild Cuba once the island's Communist government is gone.

President Bush says it is time to prepare for a change of power in Cuba.

In a speech at the U.S. State Department, Mr. Bush made clear he is talking about a democratically elected government in Havana, not Fidel Castro passing authority to his brother, Raul.

"Life will not improve for Cubans under their current system of government," he said. "It will not improve by exchanging one dictator for another. It will not improve, if we seek accommodation with a new tyranny in the interest of stability."

The president says the operative word in America's future dealing with Cuba is not stability; it is freedom. He says America will not support the old way with new faces, or the old system held together with new chains.

"The Socialist paradise is a tropical gulag," the president said. "The quest for justice that once inspired the Cuban people has now become a grab for power."

The president says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez will enlist foreign governments to contribute to what he hopes will be a multi-billion-dollar 'freedom fund' for Cuba.

Once the government in Havana shows that it respects fundamental freedoms of speech, association, press, and the right to change government through multi-party elections, Mr. Bush says, the money raised will be released to Cuban entrepreneurs to help rebuild their country.

It was the president's first major address on Cuba in four years, and the first since Defense Minister Raul Castro took charge of a provisional government in July 2006, when his older brother Fidel had emergency intestinal surgery.

While Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since, he has kept writing. In a Tuesday essay entitled "Bush, Hunger and Death," Mr. Castro writes that President Bush is threatening the world with famine by encouraging the use of corn and other food crops to produce alternative fuels such as ethanol.

Mr. Castro says President Bush is adopting new measures to accelerate political change on the island, equating that to a new conquest of Cuba by force.

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