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Dobriansky Luncheon Remarks Cuba Democracy Summit

Luncheon Remarks at the Cuba Transition to Democracy Summit

Dr. Paula Dobriansky , Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs

Coral Gables, Florida
October 13, 2006

Good afternoon. Cuba is at a crossroads; the transfer of power from Mr. Castro to his brother underscores that change is underway; the real question is what sort of outcome is likely to result. We are not taking a "wait and see approach," rather we are actively supporting a genuine transition to democracy --not a succession from one dictator to another.

A democratic transition must be driven by the Cuban people. Yet, we are convinced that the international community must find ways to help the Cuban people define their future with guarantees of political liberty and the ability to conduct free and fair elections, so that they can rightfully choose their leaders.

We are implementing the measures outlined by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC), co-chaired by Secretary Rice and Commerce Secretary Gutierrez. The Commission issued two reports with recommendations establishing an integrated U.S. strategy to help Cubans move towards democracy, by providing resources to democratic forces within Cuba, while at the same time denying resources to those who oppress the Cuban people. The strategy aims to open up Cuban society by providing them with access to independent information and breaking down the information blockade that the Cuban regime has sought to impose. The Administration has committed significant resources to support democratic change on the island, including the $80 million recommended in the second report.

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In July, the President also issued the Compact With the People of Cuba which is a message of hope, pledging the support of the U.S. for a process defined and led by Cubans that ultimately restores their fundamental freedoms and the opportunity to chart their democratic future and reclaim their sovereignty through free and fair elections.

Recently, Secretary Rice asserted that "The United States is encouraging all democratic nations to join together and call for the release of political prisoners, for the restoration of [your] fundamental freedoms, and for a transition that quickly leads to multiparty elections in Cuba."

We believe these elements are essential to any transition. For it is clear to us that the key to stability in Cuba, the key to Cuba being a reliable partner in the international community, is democracy and allowing the Cuban people an opportunity to choose its leadership.

In our neighborhood, we are fortunate that we have a ready-made framework for Cuba's reintegration into the community of democratic nations that is the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

I recently spoke with some of the "Ladies in White" and I was struck by the fact that despite decades of repression there are many Cubans who are strong and so resilient in their advocacy of human rights and democracy and are prepared to suffer great consequences - through prison terms, through intimidation, through harassment. It is our collective obligation not to let them down.

Released on October 19, 2006


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