President Bush says he will not loosen the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Former President Jimmy Carter told the Cuban people Tuesday that Congress should lift the embargo.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush believes the trade embargo is a "vital" part of American foreign policy toward Cuba.
"The president will, of course, continue to enforce the embargo against Cuba because he believes it does not help the people of Cuba to trade with Cuba. It only gives money to the government that the government then uses as part of its repression of its people," he said.
Mr. Fleischer says Cuba is an "old-fashioned totalitarian country" that is not reforming and is not engaging in economic progress to benefit its people.
Keeping the embargo is a different approach than the Bush Administration has taken with China, for example, where the president says expanding trade will lead to greater political reform.
Mr. Fleischer says Mr. Bush is unwilling to consider a similar approach with Cuba because he says President Fidel Castro is interested only in holding on to power through repression.
"Trade with China means trade with a totally different system with different economic values than Cuba. Trade with China has been dispersed widely throughout the people of China," the spokesman said. "Trade with China has led to a broader group of citizenry who have benefited and therefore are pushing China for democratic reforms, and interestingly China has been moving in the area of democratic reforms, particularly in the country." Former president Carter visiting Cuba Tuesday, told Cubans that the U.S. Congress should lift its embargo and allow Americans to visit the island freely. President Bush is expected to tighten those travel restrictions during a speech in Miami next Monday.
While they clearly differ on the trade embargo, Mr. Fleischer says President Bush agrees with former President Carter on the need for democratic reforms in Cuba.
Mr. Carter encouraged President Castro to allow Cubans to vote on reforms. He also criticized the country's human rights record. Mr. Fleischer called those comments "important and helpful."