President Bush says he will not end the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba until the government there releases all political prisoners. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.
President Bush met with former Cuban political prisoners to mark the five year anniversary of mass arrests on the island. Teachers, librarians, and journalists were among those detained five years ago this month in what has come to be known as Cuba's Black Spring. Seventy five people were given long prison terms.
"They committed no crimes," said President Bush. "They simply held views their government did not like. And they refused to be silent."
Cuba's long-time leader Fidel Castro stepped-down last month because of health problems. He has been replaced by his brother Raul.
President Bush says nothing has changed in what he calls a tropical gulag. Mr. Bush says now is not the time to change America's long-standing trade embargo. What needs to change, he says, is Cuba's government.
"Cuba's government must begin a process of peaceful democratic change," he said. "They must release all political prisoners. They must have respect for human rights in word and deed and pave the way for free and fair elections. So far, all Cuba has done is replace one dictator with another, and its former ruler is still influencing events from behind the scenes."
President Bush also criticized many of the world's democracies for not speaking out against political repression in Cuba.