CRAWFORD, Texas (AFP) - Cuba’s crackdown on political dissidents only makes US efforts to promote democracy by working with opposition activists there “more urgent,” the White House said.
“Cuba’s efforts to silence voices of opposition only make our policy goal of encouraging rapid, peaceful transition to democracy more relevant and more urgent,” said spokeswoman Claire Buchan.
“We’ll continue to work with independent Cuban civil society and with the Cuban people, and are willing to consider steps to advance that policy goal in this climate,” she told reporters.
Those comments came after the New York Times reported that US President George W. Bush (news - web sites) is considering a series of steps to punish the Cuban government of President Fidel Castro (news - web sites) for jailing dozens of dissidents.
The sanctions could include cutting off cash payments from Cuban Americans to their relatives in Cuba—estimated to run as high as one billion dollars a year—or limiting the number of Americans who travel to Cuba by ending direct charter flights between the two countries, US officials told the daily.
Asked to confirm the story, a senior administration official who declined to be named told AFP that “there are ideas kicking around” but would not specify what measures were being contemplated or when a decision might be reached.
While no decision has been made on a variety of options at hand, Bush is expected to make a public statement soon about the dissident crackdown in Cuba, the officials said without indicating when it might take place, according to the Times.
Bush is also expected to issue a stern warning to Cuba that it will not tolerate another exodus of Cuban “rafters,” the daily said, referring to the massive overseas arrival in Florida of Cuban immigrants in 1980 and 1994.
Havana’s one-party communist government has drawn international condemnation since it handed down jail terms of up to 28 years to 75 dissidents and executed three hijackers of a commuter ferry trying to get to the United States after summary trials last week.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) said Tuesday that Cuba’s behavior “should be an outrage to every leader in this hemisphere, every leader in this world,” adding that the island’s human rights record seemed to be getting worse.
Castro, now 76 and at his country’s helm for 44 years, insists his country is the victim of a “battle of provocations that could lead to a conflict” with the United States.
Havana accuses Washington of actively promoting the operations of dissident groups which, while outlawed, were broadly tolerated in the past with variable repression.
The United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations, and Washington has for the past four decades imposed an economic boycott of Havana and other sanctions.