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President Bush Outlines Cuban Policy Initiatives

President Bush proposed a new policy plan Wednesday to push for a democratic transition in Cuba, but he declined to lift an economic embargo on the nation. Two policy analysts assess the state of U.S.-Cuban relations.

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    Fidel Castro is 81, ailing, and temporarily has handed power to his brother, Raul, who has promised to keep Cuba on its communist course. But today, President Bush laid out his program to push forward a transition to democracy in Cuba.

    In his first major address on Cuba policy in four years, Mr. Bush criticized the Castro regime, but said there were stirrings for change.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: As we speak, calls for fundamental change are growing across the island. Peaceful demonstrations are spreading. Earlier this year, leading Cuban dissidents came together for the first time to issue the Unity of Freedom, a declaration for democratic change.


    And he said it was time for the U.S. and other democracies to encourage that change.


    Now is the time to support the democratic movements growing on the island. Now is the time to stand with the Cuban people as they stand up for their liberty. And now is the time for the world to put aside its differences and prepare for Cuba's transition to a future of freedom and progress and promise.


    The president asserted that the U.S. provided Cuba with more than $270 million in privately raised aid last year and was ready to do more. Mr. Bush offered three specific ideas: expanded Internet access to Cuban students; and an invitation to Cuban youth to join a Latin American scholarship program; he also called for the creation of an international fund to help a democratic Cuba build a free-market economy.

    But the president said he would not lift the decades-old U.S. economic embargo or travel restrictions to Cuba. President Bush then made a direct appeal to the Cuban people.


    To those Cubans who are listening, perhaps at great risk, I would like to speak to you directly. Some of you are members of the Cuban military or the police or officials in the government. You may have once believed in the revolution; now you can see its failure.

    When Cubans rise up to demand their liberty, the liberty they deserve, you've got to make a choice. Will you defend a disgraced and dying order by using force against your own people, or will you embrace your people's desire for change?

    To the ordinary Cubans who are listening, you have the power to shape your own destiny. You can bring about a future where your leaders answer to you, where you can freely express your beliefs, and where your children can grow up in peace. And you can carry this refrain your heart: Su dia ya viene llegando. Your day is coming soon.


    Castro, for his part, published an essay Tuesday accusing President Bush of threatening "humanity with World War III."