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Cuban Exiles Welcome US Call for Democracy in Cuba

Cubans exiles in Miami are welcoming the Bush administration's latest call for democracy in Cuba.

For the past two days, the Bush administration has released statements reaffirming its strong support for a democratic government change in Cuba.

The latest came Friday from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In her message to the Cuban people, carried on the U.S.-funded Cuban broadcasters Radio and TV Marti, Rice said the United States is committed to tangibly supporting a future of freedom for Cuba.

She said all Cubans who desire peaceful democratic change can count on the support of the United States. But she advised them to work at home for positive change.

A similar message from President Bush to the Cuban people was released by the White House Thursday.

The administration's statements of support come days after Havana announced that Cuban President Fidel Castro underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding and transferred power to his brother Raul, a powerful defense minister.

There has been no sign of Mr. Castro or his brother since the announcement out of Havana Monday.

Camila Gallardo with the Cuban American National Foundation says it is important that the message from Washington gets out to the decision-makers in Cuba.

"It provides an incredible incentive to know that the United States stands ready to support them in the event that they do choose to return power back to the Cuban people," said Gallardo.

But Gallardo says the United States can do more by getting multinational or multilateral support in the effort for a democratic transition in Cuba.

In Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, Willy Calvino, who says he left the island when he was 10 years old in 1961, says he believes the efforts by the Bush administration are correctly focused.

"[President] Bush has always said it, that the best thing and the only thing that he would like for Cuba, is for Cuba to have a democracy," said Calvino.

The Cuban government has not announced details about the health problems which forced Mr. Castro to temporarily cede power for the first time in 47 years.