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US Government Panel Creates Plan for Post-Castro Cuba

A special commission created by President Bush says the United States must be ready to assist Cuba within weeks of President Fidel Castro's death.

The recommendation is part of a lengthy report prepared by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which is overseen by the U.S. State Department.

The report, scheduled to be released next week, says the U.S. could provide Havana with basic needs such as health care and clean water.

It recommends the creation of a two-year, $80 million "democracy fund" to boost internal opposition to Mr. Castro, and $20 million a year to fund democracy programs "until the dictatorship ceases to exist."

The 80-year-old Cuban leader, who has been in power since 1959, has shown no signs he is ready to step down.

Mr. Castro has designated his brother Raul as his successor.

The U.S. commission is an intergovernmental agency created in 2003 to speed Cuba's peaceful transition to a free and democratic society. It is co-chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttered, a Cuban-American.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.