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Dobriansky: Cuba Transition to Democracy Summit

Welcome Remarks at the Cuba Transition to Democracy Summit

Dr. Paula Dobriansky
Remarks to...
Washington, DC
October 13, 2006


Welcome, Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. Good Morning. I am Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. I am delighted to be here today. I want to especially thank our hosts Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Mel Martinez, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart for holding this timely and important Summit.

This year, Hungary commemorates the 50th anniversary of its uprising for freedom. In 1956, tens of thousands of Hungarians marching through the streets of Budapest called for an end to dictatorship. They called for free elections, a free press, and the release of political prisoners. We have learned from the Hungarian revolution, Prague Spring, Solidarity in Poland, the Velvet Revolution, and other freedom movements, that as President Bush stated during his recent trip to Hungary: "Liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied." This is the principal message of the Central and Eastern European Experience.

It is very fitting therefore to have present here today Hungarian Foreign Minister Gonz and many distinguished representatives of countries that threw off the yoke of tyranny after decades of oppression. Your own experience has demonstrated that the democratic journey is not so easy. It is full of setbacks and tough decisions, but it also illustrates that freedom can transform a society, and can create peace, tolerance, and prosperity where none existed for a long time. Today, our discussion will focus on the transition experiences of Central and Eastern Europe represented here by freedom-loving colleagues from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Slovenia. Because you believe that free nations have an obligation to help others realize the benefits of democracy you have developed the "Friends of a Democratic Cuba.

We commend your efforts to develop the "friends" initiative as a way of fostering discussion and dialogue on the best strategies and methods to support a genuine transition to democracy in Cuba." The U.S supports your efforts to develop a "toolbox" that can be used by democracy activists, civil society and others interested in promoting and preparing for democratic change. By sharing your transition experience and lessons learned, especially in building a vibrant civil society, you are substantially contributing to democratic change on the island.

We are so pleased that this summit has attracted a broad cross section of Cuban leaders, civil society, and activists that can both contribute and draw upon this crucial sharing of experiences.

Released on October 19, 2006

ENDS


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