BY DOUG LORIMER
At a White House press conference on October 10, US President George Bush announced new punitive measures against socialist Cuba, including new steps to enforce Washington's 41-year-old trade embargo against the island, stricter enforcement of the ban on US citizens travelling to Cuba and increased US government support for groups working to restore capitalism in Cuba.
Bush also announced the setting up of a "Presidential Committee for Aid to a Free Cuba", headed by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Melquiades Martinez, a representative within the Bush administration of the right-wing Cuban emigre terrorist groups in Miami, to advise the US president on further steps to overthrow Cuba's workers' and peasants' government.
Bush told reporters that he had instructed the US homeland security department to "increase inspections of travellers and shipments to and from Cuba", adding that US citizens who travel to Cuba via third countries or on private vessels would be "targeted" for prosecution.
In March, the Bush administration announced that it would no longer issue "people-to-people" licenses to groups sponsoring educational trips to Cuba; the US treasury department increased the number of prosecutions against US citizens who travel "illegally" to Cuba from 165 in 1996 to 1155 in the first six months of 2001. Convictions can bring fines of up to US$7000.
At his press conference, Bush also announced plans to step up Washington's propaganda war against the Cuban Revolution through increased US government-funded radio and television broadcasts to the island.
Since taking office in January 2001, the Bush administration has escalated Washington's four-decade-long campaign to destroy the Cuban Revolution by:
- increasing the subversive activity of the US Interests Section in the Swiss embassy in Havana (Washington's unofficial diplomatic outpost in Cuba), including assigning more than $30 million approved by the US Agency for International Development to fund "independent" journalists in Cuba;
- violating migration agreements signed with Cuba, which allow 20,000 Cubans to emigrate a year to the US, by dramatically cutting the number of immigration visas issued by the US Interests Section in Havana while encouraging illegal emigration from Cuba through boat and aircraft hijackings; and
- repeatedly accusing Cuba, without providing any evidence, of developing biological weapons and of backing terrorists.
In a statement issued on October 13, the Cuban foreign ministry declared that the new measures announced by Bush "clearly demonstrate the US government's unlimited commitment to the ultra-right Cuban American sectors and their obsession to destroy the example represented by the Cuban Revolution.
"These actions are also a vain attempt to neutralise the growing isolation and international condemnation of US policy on Cuba, and a broad-based questioning of US governmental hostility towards our country in the United States itself...
"Cuba constitutes a moral and political point of reference that the US government and the terrorist groups located in the south of Florida cannot abide. Obsessed with putting an end to the example of dignity and social justice embodied by the Cuban Revolution, they are taking courses of action that are steadily more dangerous and provocative.
"Faced with the failure of more than 40 years of economic and political warfare, the application of a blockade unequalled in history, the sanctions and draconian measures that have brought tremendous suffering to the Cuban people, the US government is now lending itself to taking even stronger measures against Cuba...
"With the arrogance that characterises him, President Bush noted in his speech that Cuba will not change by itself, but that Cuba has to change. The president of the United States should know that his words do not frighten anybody in this country. We decided 44 years ago to embark on the hard but also worthy road of sovereignty and independence and we are not going to renounce it...
"Nobody should be mistaken, neither our enemies abroad nor their discredited domestic mercenaries. As it has done to date, Cuba has the total capacity and disposition to confront and overcome with intelligence, maturity, firmness and courage this or any other extravagancies and aggressive escalations on any terrain. Mr Bush should know that, as always, any aggression against our country will founder against the dignity, steadfastness and integrity of the people of Cuba."
From Green Left Weekly, October 22, 2003.
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