2nd Report Of Com. for Assistance to a Free Cuba
Second Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and the Compact With the Cuban People
Briefing with Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez and Cuba Transition
Coordinator Caleb McCarry
July 10, 2006
11:20 a.m. EDT
SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. Today we are pleased to release the Compact with the People of Cuba and the Second Report to the President of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. Under President Bush's leadership, the United States is keeping our promise to marshal our resources and our expertise and to encourage all nations to join with us in supporting the right of all Cubans to define a future of freedom and democracy for themselves and for their country.
This Compact and the Second Report's recommendations reflect America's resolve to stand with Cuba's brave opposition leaders, men and women, who speak for those Cubans who are forced into fearful silence but who remain free in their hearts and in their minds.
The Commission's recommendations include concrete support for democratic change in Cuba. Under a new two-year $80 million program, we are stepping up our efforts along multiple fronts. We are increasing our determination to break the regime's information blockade and we are offering support for the efforts of Cubans to prepare for the day when they will recover their sovereignty and can select a government of their choosing through free and fair multi-party elections.
We are laying the groundwork to offer specific substantial assistance for a democratic transition in Cuba, including humanitarian aid and support for the recovery of those fundamental democratic rights and economic freedoms that lead to prosperity.
The Commission's Second Report keeps the promise that the United States has made to the people of Cuba. You have no greater friend than America. You can always count on our support and we will be ready to stand with you through the process of transformation to your democratic future.
I would now ask my co-chair, Secretary Carlos Gutierrez of the Department of Commerce, to speak about our direct message of hope through the Compact with the people of Cuba. Carlos.
SECRETARY GUTIERREZ: Thank you. Good morning. Under the leadership of President Bush and Secretary Rice this morning we released the Second Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and a Compact with the People of Cuba. The Compact is a message of hope and reassurance to Cubans that they can count on our concrete aid in areas like humanitarian needs, economic recovery and free and fair elections. The people of Cuba have a choice: economic and political freedom and opportunity or more political repression and economic suffering under the current regime.
The United States stands ready to work with the people of Cuba, to attain political and economic liberty. We pledge to help the Cuban people and a new transitioned Cuban government as it moves away from a totalitarian communist dictatorship and toward a free and representative democracy. To support a Cuban transition government, we pledge to provide emergency food, water, fuel and medical equipment. We pledge to help rebuild Cuba's shattered economy. We pledge to respect the right of the Cuban people to be secure in their homes. We pledge to encourage assistance from other countries, associations and private companies. And we pledge to discourage third parties from intervening to obstruct the will of the Cuban people.
We will do all this and more, provided we are asked by a Cuban transition government that is committed to dismantling all instruments of state repression and implementing internationally respected human rights and fundamental freedoms, including organizing free and fair elections for a democratically elected new Cuban government within a period of no more than 18 months. The report and its recommendations are intended to support the Compact with the People of Cuba. The Administration of President Bush is committed to accompany Cubans through a transition to political and economic freedom.
The people of Cuba have suffered too much and for too long and deserve so much more than what they have today. Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: And now we will turn over the microphone to Caleb McCarry who has been the Coordinator for Assistance to a Free Cuba and he will do a more detailed report on the report.
MR. MCCARRY: Good morning. I also have some brief introductory remarks and then I'd be happy to answer your questions.
Cubans need to know that there is hope. And as Secretary Rice and Secretary Gutierrez have said, "A compact with the Cuban people is a straightforward message of hope, directly addressed to Cubans." The Second Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba builds upon the recommendations of the Commission's first report and it represents the work of over 100 participants from 17 federal departments and agencies over the course of several months. The report sets forth specific assistance and programs the United States can offer to help Cubans rapidly recover their sovereignty through free and fair multi-party elections. It contains seven chapters and a series of recommendations designed to help Cubans secure real and lasting change in their country.
The report directs actions we can take now to develop appropriate plans to support a democratic transition tomorrow. The report broadly summarizes resources and expertise the U.S. Government could make available to a Cuban transition government that releases all political prisoners, is committed to free and fair elections and asks for our help. The report recommends a substantial increase in our efforts, in concert with other nations, to empower Cubans to define a democratic future for their country.
The report recognizes that the international community and Cubans abroad will have an important role to play in Cuba's transition. As a community of free nations, now is the time to intensify our efforts to stand with the Cuban people as they work to secure liberty, prosperity, and reconciliation when Cuba becomes free. Cubans in Cuba, at great personal risk, are already talking about a democratic transition for their country. It is what Cubans say about the future of Cuba that truly matters.
The opposition movement is creating momentum for democratic change in Cuba. With our offer of advice and assistance to all who seek democratic change in Cuba, we hope to add to this momentum. The report's recommendations also put the regime's henchmen that are orchestrating violent attacks on the opposition and other independent groups through so-called actos de repudio on notice that they will be denied visas.
This is an ongoing process to assist Cubans in their transition to freedom. We will need to update and adapt our preparations to keep pace with the Cubans themselves. This will ensure that when asked, we will be able to offer appropriate support that meets needs identified by Cubans. We hope that this report will find resonance with the people of Cuba, the world's democracies and the people of the United States. Together, we can reassure the Cuban people that they can count on democratic allies as they move to see their sovereign will ultimately expressed through free and fair multi-party elections.
Thank you for your attention. I'd be happy to answer questions. Yes, please.
QUESTION: You talk about a compact with the Cuban people, but the word, compact, kind of insinuates that it's agreed upon by both parties. What makes you think that the Cuban people are interested in U.S. help? And as you know, there's been many -- much speculation that Fidel Castro's brother, Raul, is set to take his place. And so how do you expect to stop the continuation of the repressive regime and try and get the U.S. assistance for a democratic Cuba flowing in?
MR. MCCARRY: Okay. Well, first, I'll answer the first part of your question. Most Cubans in Cuba, having lived under 47 years of dictatorship, want change. And it is Cubans themselves who are talking about a democratic transition. Independent Cubans, opposition leaders have been presenting their proposals and plans and ideas for democratic change to the Cuban people.
What we are doing is offering our support for the right of Cubans to define a democratic future for their country.
In terms of the second part of your question, we are providing several kinds of support now. One is very specifically, as this report does and as the Compact with the Cuban People does, to speak very clearly about our support for the right of Cubans to define a democratic future for their nation.
The report also contains a series of recommendations for the kinds of assistance that we anticipate that a Cuban transition government that is dedicated to restoring fundamental rights to the Cuban people, releasing political prisoners and is dedicated to holding free and fair elections might want to request from the United States.
It's very important to underscore that this offer of assistance is that; it's an offer.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, if I could just follow up. I mean, you talk as if the Cuban people have a choice to determine their own future. As you know from the repression of the regime, right now they don't have that choice and it's very unrealistic to expect in the eyes of many Cuba experts that the day after the demise of Fidel Castro himself or of his regime that they'll have any more of that choice. So how much of this is kind of wishful thinking on the part of the Administration that Cubans are actually going to be able to even ask for assistance?
MR. MCCARRY: Cubans are asking. Cubans are demanding their rights. Cubans are asking their government to give them freedoms that Americans take for granted in our own nation.
I'll give you a specific example. Guillermo FariÃ±as is an independent journalist. It also happens his background is that he's a wounded Angola war veteran. And he's been on a protracted hunger strike. What for? He's asking for uncensored internet access for ordinary Cubans. Cubans are making their demands known to the government and it is they who will define a democratic future for their country. And the Compact and the report are a very concrete expression of the support of the United States for their efforts.
QUESTION: What is the reference that Mr. Guttierez made to the 18 months? Can you explain what he meant by this?
MR. MCCARRY: Obviously, the sooner that sovereignty can be returned to the Cuban peace through free and fair multiparty elections, the greater the chances will be for peace and stability in Cuba. I think that that's apparent. The 18-month period also refers to guidelines which are contained in U.S. law regarding the provision of U.S. assistance for a transition.
QUESTION: Can you just elaborate a little bit more on the $80 million assistance, or the Cuba fund? Does that include -- what's included and what's not, because the U.S. Government is already providing something on the order of $35 million a year to TV and Radio Marti and then there's maybe $8 or $9 million more that go through USAID programs. So what is in it and what is out of it?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, I think that -- let me just say this is a new commitment by President Bush and this Administration to provide over two years $80 million in additional assistance to empower and support Cubans as they lead the way towards a democratic transition in their country.
Specifically, some of the items that are included in the report are support for independent civil society on the island. This is increasing support that -- the kinds of support that we currently provide, funding for education and exchanges for Cubans, efforts to break the Castro regime's blockade and expand the Cuban people's access to independent information, including through the internet, support for international efforts at strengthening civil society and transition planning, providing equipment so that Cubans can receive international broadcasts and be aware of reports from independent media, expanding third-country broadcasting to Cuba, including new and expanded programming to reach a larger audience, particularly reaching young people in Cuba, support for -- and training and equipment and equipping independent print and radio and TV journalists. As you know, independent journalists operate under conditions where they're subject to repression and arrest in Cuba for exercising their rights as journalists. These are the kinds of things that are included.
QUESTION: Is TV Marti -- I'm sorry, the current budget of TV Marti is not part of this $80 million, then?
MR. MCCARRY: Not the current budget, but there will be additional funds for --
QUESTION: TV Marti?
MR. MCCARRY: TV Marti programming.
QUESTION: Through this $80 million?
MR. MCCARRY: Yes, that's correct.
QUESTION: A draft of the report mentions classified annexes. Is there a part of this report that will not be made public?
MR. MCCARRY: Yes, there is.
QUESTION: And -- okay. Could you also address -- your colleagues spoke earlier about helping a transition government keep security in Cuba. That implies, possibly, some sort of American military or police assistance. Can you talk at all about what sort of military security plans you have in place? And do you envisage any possible, sort of, confrontation with Venezuela over Cuba in that respect?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, the report, in terms of perspective recommendations, does include a recommendation regarding providing support during a transition, as authorized by U.S. law, to assist the Cuban security forces in making the transition to working under a democratic government. That --
QUESTION: Does that involve the deployment of U.S. forces?
MR. MCCARRY: That's -- I just gave you the -- recited the part of the report that does refer to, prospectively, in the future with a transition government, the kinds of assistance that might be provided.
In the back.
MR. MCCARRY: Well, if I can get back to -- let me get back to that. The report does speak, you will see it when you get the copies and read it, to the relationship between Venezuela and the dictatorship in Cuba. And I think the report actually refers specifically to the fact that the current regime in Havana is working with like-minded governments, particularly Venezuela, to build a network of political and financial support that is, of course, designed to forestall any external pressure to change.
In the back.
QUESTION: You mentioned one of the preconditions, one of the three preconditions for aid would have to be a request for help. What form might that request actually take?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, obviously, you know, this would be at some point in the future when the President determines that, in accordance with U.S. law, a transition government is in place that meets the requirements that are outlined in U.S. law. It would have to be -- I think the point we're making here is that we want to help the Cuban people and we want to help a transition government that is committed to free and fair elections so that the sovereignty of the Cuban people will be returned to them and they can freely elect a government -- a democratic government of their choosing. But what our assistance -- you know, is an offer and it is -- and if requested, the United States will be prepared to respond.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the additional assistance to civil society. What form does it take and is it channeled through exile organizations and if such, do you have a list of the ones that are going to be recipients to send money to Cuba? And also, are you concerned at all that by increasing the U.S. support and so openly stating your goal, you are, in fact, causing the Cuban Government to go -- to increase the repression against the ones that are receiving the aid and just say that they're U.S. agents and just jail them and neutralize them?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, several points. You know, one, of course, this is --
QUESTION: Can you also say it in Spanish?
MR. MCCARRY: Oh, okay. (In Spanish.)
QUESTION: Well, I'd like the rest to hear, but -- you know --
MR. MCCARRY: Okay, I'll try to -- there were several questions there, so I'll try to remember what you asked. The first point is that -- you know, this is about the President's freedom agenda. This is a fundamental issue for U.S. foreign policy. Also, what's very important to understand is the kinds of assistance that are talked about in this report -- the kinds of assistance that not only our government, but other governments provide to support democratic organizations around the world, democratic and independent organizations. What I can tell you is that this assistance and the implementation of the assistance will be fully consistent with our current efforts.
And finally, with regard to the last part of your question, we know that the regime finds it threatening when people are free to read books and to write and express themselves and when people receive uncensored access to the internet and when people receive information provided to them through broadcasts. But it's very important that we and other nations do provide this kind of assistance and help to support Cubans as they themselves think through their own future. After all, it's very important what they have to say and it's -- and what they have to say about their future. Thank you.
QUESTION: In moments where North Korea is launching missiles and Iran is enriching uranium, how much of a threat is Fidel Castro? Isn't he more of a symbolic threat to the U.S. than a real threat to national security?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, let me just say this. An undemocratic Cuba is a destabilizing influence in our hemisphere and we are certain that a free and prosperous Cuba will be a friend of the United States and will be welcomed back into the inter-American community of democracies.
QUESTION: And is it a destabilizing influence in our hemisphere and you -- and the report says that he's trying to subvert other countries in Latin America. Which are those countries and what is he trying exactly to do with the help of Chavez?
MR. MCCARRY: I think I'd just answer your question with what the report says, which is that there are clear signs the regime is using money provided by the Chavez government in Venezuela to reactivate its networks in the hemisphere to subvert democratic governments.
QUESTION: And can't you say which countries he's trying to subvert or --
MR. MCCARRY: That's as much as I can say on that.
QUESTION: Isn't it the case that reports such as this and -- you know, tightening U.S. sanctions is actually to the benefit of the Cuban Government? They use such actions to turn their people against the United States?
MR. MCCARRY: We believe that the Cuban people know that the United States stands with them and that the United States supports their aspiration to be free. I had someone tell me the other day that the longstanding policy of the United States to support those who have suffered oppression in Cuba brings honor on our country.
QUESTION: When you talk about a transition government, I mean, how do you determine when there is a transition government in place? I mean, just to go back to the whole idea of Raul taking over. I mean, are you looking to democratic forces in the country to say, "We are the transition government, recognize us." I mean, it could -- until those -- you know, non-repressive forces in the country -- that could be a long time. When do you say this is a transition government?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, obviously, the Cuban people have to define their future. And let me say this; you know, there are matters that are very important, and that are fundamental, and which we will not compromise, such as -- and they're laid out in our law: the release of political prisoners, commitment to hold free and fair elections.
But let me say this, and again, this is from the report, what we cannot support. We cannot support a Cuban Government that does not allow its citizen to freely elect its leaders -- their leaders. U.S. support will not be made available to a government that adopts economic or other policies suggest a change, but which do not actually achieve the goal of dismantling the repressive regime and making a full transition to democracy.
In the back.
QUESTION: Fidel Castro has an important birthday coming up and I'm just asking to what extent this initiative is intended to pressure the government now, to what extent it's anticipating nature taking its course, if you will? And since we're all here together, can you give us an assessment of how you think Fidel Castro is faring as he approaches 80?
MR. MCCARRY: Actually, I'm far more concerned about how the Cuban people are faring under this dictatorship. Let us remember this is an extremely repressive regime that seeks to stamp out, dissent an independent thought at every turn. The timing of this report has to do entirely with our commitment to deepen our support for the Cuban people as they lead the way to a democratic transition in Cuba.
QUESTION: The last time the Commission issued a report, it led to very widespread travel restrictions, especially -- including for Americans, cutting off a lot of exchange programs, cutting off religious trips down to Cuba. Has that had any benefit for you? I'm struck by the fact that you're now talking about increasing educational exchanges for Cubans.
MR. MCCARRY: Obviously, these restrictions are intended to do two things. First of all, of course, is to deny revenue to the regime that it would use otherwise to sustain itself and repress the Cuban people.
And also there's a positive aspect that isn't talked about much about what our efforts are intended to do, and that is frankly to focus attention on support for independent organizations and activity on the island.
QUESTION: Kind of a follow-up on a previous question. One of the first paragraphs on the report says that the ties between the support that the Cuban Government gets from Hugo Chavez has allowed it to begin its interference in Latin American governments and nations. Can you expand that a little bit, please.
MR. MCCARRY: Actually, I'll refer you back to the text of the report on that.
Let's see, I don't think you asked a question.
QUESTION: In 2000 the United States allowed some exemptions to sanctions against Cuba by allowing some food and agricultural products to be sold directly to Cuba. There are now Senate -- members of the Senate who are cosponsoring a bill to allow U.S. oil companies to bid for offshore drilling off the coast of Cuba. What kind of impact would that have? You just spoke previously about trying to deny revenue to the regime. What kind of impact revenue-wise would such drilling have for Castro?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, let me just say I'm here to brief on this report. That particular issue is not addressed in this report. But obviously all of the restrictions which were put in place under the first report remain in place under -- as we move forward with this report.
QUESTION: There are no increased strengthening of sanctions?
MR. MCCARRY: There are no new sanctions in this report; however, what there are are a series, you'll see as you read the report, of recommendations for better enforcement of our current restrictions to ensure compliance.
QUESTION: In a transition government in Cuba, my question to you is do you consider all the military personnel in Cuba as members of the repressive regime or -- I understand the U.S. Government has -- have any contact with other generals in Cuba that are not radicals as Fidel.
MR. MCCARRY: I would draw your attention to -- and I mentioned it in my opening remarks -- one of the new recommendations which we'll be implementing is to identify those persons who are involved in orchestrating violent actos de repudio, or attacks, mob attacks, on independent groups and on the opposition in Cuba. And this of course would include anyone in the security forces, including the military.
QUESTION: Yes, Secretary of State has talked about a international community support for this plan. What kind of support from the international community would you expect?
MR. MCCARRY: Well, certainly what we're emphasizing is that all democratic nations, we believe, would agree that the Cuban people have the right to define a democratic future for their country. And it is our hope that working together we can all work to support the Cuban people in that right.
Let's see. Okay, Pablo.
QUESTION: I have a question regarding the Helms-Burton law. This report suggests a tighter or more vigorous enforcement -- at least that was in the draft -- of Title IV. Can you expand on what does that mean -- a more vigorous enforcement, because it seems to be enforcement's been very light. Only some companies have been subject to this visa denial process.
And also in Title III it says that countries -- there's language in there that suggests that countries that are not collaborating or cooperating on the transition could be sanctioned. Does this mean sort of Venezuelan -- the oil company, maybe PDVSA -- invest Venezuela and they're not seen as, you know, being compliant, they could be sanctioned? Exactly what does that mean?
MR. MCCARRY: I think I would just leave the language in the report stand as it is.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you've had any contact at all with members of the Cuban Government over this report? Are you going to somehow hand it over, discuss it with them or reach out to them in any way at all, or is there no contact whatsoever with anyone within the government?
MR. MCCARRY: The report will be available on www.cafc.gov and anyone can access it.
QUESTION: Do you guys have any contact with them?
MR. MCCARRY: No.
QUESTION: I'm just -- I'm a little bit unclear on how the Administration sees a -- what a democratic transition will look like. Who does it? Who takes over? How do they do it?
MR. MCCARRY: That's to be defined by Cubans and --
QUESTION: But you must have, you know, scenarios for what will happen.
MR. MCCARRY: It really is Cubans that will have to define their democratic future. If you read the report, it's very clear the kinds of things that will be, from our perspective, will be necessary steps for a Cuban transition government to take in order, if it wishes to ask for our help, in order for us to be able to provide that assistance.
QUESTION: Can I make a quick follow-up?
MR. MCCARRY: Okay.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
MR. MCCARRY: (In Spanish.)
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
Released on July 10, 2006