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Why Was Cuba Left Off Bush’s List of Countries Seeking Freedom?

Fla. senator wants to know why Cuba was ignored

A Florida senator expressed disappointment that President Bush did not mention Cuba as one of the countries searching for freedom in his recent State of the Union speech and is making his feelings known about it to administration officials.

Senator Mel Martinez (R.-Fla.) wrote letters to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley wanting to know why Cuba in what Martinez called the “longest-lasting tyranny remaining in the world, was not mentioned in the President’s State of the Union address. The President cited several countries in his speech that should not be forgotten in their search for freedom; however Cuba was not one of them.”

“As the President discussed areas of the world that must not be forgotten in their quest for freedom—Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran—I must confess my profound disappointment that the longest lasting tyranny remaining in the world today – communist Cuba – was overlooked,” Martinez said in his letters.

“As a matter of fact,” Martinez continued, “there was no mention of the Western Hemisphere at all—an increasingly challenging area of the world that happens to be in our own backyard. I know you and the President share my concern for the region. President Bush on many occasions has clearly spoken of his hope for freedom and democracy in Cuba, which made its omission even more troubling.”

“As the President highlighted, many of these challenges are beyond our borders, where terrorism, tyranny and proliferation continue to pose serious threats to the United States and all we hold dear.  I fully agree that the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the world are critical to the effective elimination of these threats worldwide,” Martinez said.

The Miami Herald reported Sunday that former Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa, founder of Poland’s Solidarity Union movement that helped bring down communism in his country and throughout Eastern Europe, will be visiting the University of Miami on Monday to address a panel about the examples Poland’s transition can give Cubans.

“There is a lesson to be learned from Poland,” University of Miami Professor Jaime Suchlicki, who heads the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies told the Herald. “In Poland three factors coalesced: Solidarity and its labor movement, the Catholic Church and U.S. support.”

Walesa has been visiting Miami for the last few days. Last Thursday, he told a group of Cuban exiles there that Cubans in America and Cuba must be ready for a worst-case scenario after Fidel Castro.

“You should be prepared for when it happens, with well-structured ideas of what to do, because there could be anarchy,” he said through a translator. “Anarchy is worse than anything else.”

“I start thinking that many Americans want to keep Cuba as a museum of Marxism in this hemisphere and that’s why it has lasted so long,” Walesa said.

The Herald quoted Walesa as saying “the United States is a military and economic powerhouse,” but said “there is something that is missing, moral politics.” He said that one of the biggest problems facing the world is that it is now at the mercy of globalization but is still using “old systems.”

“Our drama is that we have new times but are still thinking in the old way,” he said.

Speaking of Castro, he said, “I feel Castro has already lost, and if he had some honor or courage, he would step aside.”

Asked whether the tight U.S. travel restrictions that prevent Americans from going to Cuba were helping or hurting attempts to democratize the island, Walesa dodged the question: “I see both issues and both sides.”

Meanwhile, the Prensa Latina news agency reported Sunday that more than 1, 500 economists from about 43 countries met in Havana over the weekend on what the Castro government called “Globalization and Development Matters” and passed a resolution condemning the United States for what it called “U.S. interference” and a “blockade” on the residents of Cuba.

Prensa Latina said the resolution endorsed highlighted other countries solidarity with Cuba and “the resistance showed by its people” as well as recognizing what the Castro government called “the advances despite the permanent aggressions and difficulties considered by the experts as an attempt against the concept of freedom.”

Participants at the event warned that despite the resolutions endorsed by the United Nations against America’s economic blockade and the multiple samples of international solidarity, Washington strengthens its hostile policy toward Cuba, according to the Prensa Latina report.

The event participants also rejected the U.S. war in Iraq and American efforts to “increase military budgets ”and ratified “concern” about “coming dangers for the planet’s security and survival” due to America’s “irresponsible use of the diplomatic and war policies.”

Cuban minister of Culture Abel Prieto called for the intellectuals’ commitment in favor of Latin America’s emancipation and to use the Internet as a source to approach peoples to the continent’s social movements.

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Written By

Mr. Burns worked for several years on Capitol Hill. He previously reported on Cuba and Latin America as a correspondent for Cybercast News Service and United Press International.

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