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US Readies Funds to Help Cuban People Make Transition to Democracy


Earlier this year, the United States launched an $80 million program aimed at promoting democratic change in Cuba. State Department Cuba transition coordinator Caleb McCarry says Thursday the United States is prepared to offer assistance, if Cubans ask for it.

McCarry says the Compact with the People of Cuba includes U.S. pledges of support to the Cuban people as they transition to democracy.

"The compact with the people of Cuba is a message of hope and reassurance to Cubans that they can count on our concrete aid in areas such as humanitarian needs, economic recovery and free and fair elections," said Caleb McCarry.

But he stresses that the United States is only ready to do this if it is asked by a transitional Cuban government committed to organizing free and fair elections.

A leading expert on Cuba, Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations, says there is a disconnect between U.S. policy on Cuba and what is happening on the ground there.

She says Cuban President Fidel Castro's regime retains legitimacy in Cuba. "The United States is not seen as a friend of the Cuban people by, in my view, most Cubans living on the island," said Julia Sweig.

But McCarry says the international environment is increasingly interested in the situation in Cuba following Mr. Castro's July health problems. He says something fundamental has changed and the international community believes Cuba is not going to remain the same.

Mr. Castro has ruled the nation since 1959 through a totalitarian government that tolerates little political dissent. He temporarily transfered power to his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro in July.