Lieberman urges Bush to apply pressure on Cuba | AP
MIAMI—In a live broadcast to Cuba, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman urged the Bush administration Thursday to ratchet up the pressure on Fidel Castro’s communist government and help the island nation’s dissidents.
Lieberman, a Democratic candidate for president, called on Bush in an interview with Radio Marti “to be very aggressive” in implementing the policies the president outlined in a May 2002 address in Miami to provide American aid for the development of civil society in Cuba.
“And what does that mean? Specific support for the dissidents, the freedom fighters in Cuba and not stepping back at all in our position that we will not rest until this regime falls and the Cuban people rise to enjoy their freedom,” Lieberman said in a brief interview on the federally funded, pro-democracy broadcasting station that beams into Cuba.
Lieberman told listeners: “Yo siempre he luchado por una Cuba libre,” or “I have always fought for a free Cuba.” Asked by reporters about the Bush administration’s support of establishing a civil society in Cuba, Lieberman called it inadequate.
“As far as I can tell, the follow through on that speech has been very weak. There has been not adequate support particularly of the creation of civil society in Cuba and not adequate support of the dissidents,” Lieberman said.
A White House spokesman did not immediately return a phone call.
In recent weeks, the Cuban government has executed three men convicted of terrorism in the attempted hijacking of a ferry filled with passengers bound for the United States. There were no injuries on board. Cuban prosecutors have also convicted 75 dissidents and imposed sentences from six years to 28 years.
The 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate has been a strong supporter of the embargo against the island and has received the backing of South Florida’s Cuban-American exile community. Lieberman voted for the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that tightened the embargo and has called for increased funding for Radio Marti and TV Marti.
Democrat Al Gore and Lieberman broke with the Clinton administration on Elian Gonzalez by opposing a decision to send the boy back to Cuba. During the 2000 campaign and the post-election recount, Lieberman established strong ties with South Florida’s sizable Jewish community.
Cuban-Americans tend to vote Republican in state and national elections and have been active supporters of President Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who have both pushed a hard-line stance against Castro. But Lieberman shares many of the same views on Cuba and has been an ally of the influential Cuban American National Foundation.
The foundation sent the White House a letter last week urging the administration to support a peaceful regime change in Cuba. The group recommended the indictment of Fidel and Raul Castro, the strict enforcement of economic sanctions and an increase in aid to opposition groups and Radio and TV Marti.
“This is the last and only dictatorship in our hemisphere,” CANF executive director Joe Garcia said Thursday. “It is time for Castro to go.”
Lieberman said in the radio interview that the Cuban people may soon enjoy “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the endowment of our creator.
“Perhaps now we are at the gates of that time when those rights can be given to the Cuban people and the end of the Castro regime - a real regime change - will be near,” Lieberman said.
“There are tens of millions of Americans who think about you, who keep you in our prayers and our hopes. Don’t lose hope. As Dr. Martin Luther King said: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.’ And we will be with you, bending it toward justice and freedom for the people of Cuba,” Lieberman said.
Before leaving, Lieberman posed for photographs with Radio Marti/TV Marti director Pedro Roig in front Cuban and American flags and framed photographs of Cuban patriot Jose Marti and the very administration he hopes to defeat - President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Lieberman was also attending a fund-raiser at a Florida Marlins baseball game. He was expected to collect about $50,000 during his visit to South Florida, campaign officials said.