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U.S. Department of State

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U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
Press Statement

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Statement by Alan P. Larson Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
January 17, 2001

Suspension of Title III Lawsuit Provisions of
The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act

The President has announced his decision to again exercise the authority granted under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act to suspend for an additional six months - from February 1 through July 31 - the right to bring actions under Title III of the Act. The President determined that it is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. In taking this action, the President took into consideration important steps taken by our allies to promote a democratic transition and respect for human rights in Cuba.

As the President noted, the Department of State has been working since 1996 to build and strengthen a new, historic, multilateral effort to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba. We have continued to make progress in our ongoing efforts to encourage other nations, especially in Europe and Latin America, to take specific, concrete steps based on their expressed commitment to human rights and democracy in Cuba. These efforts have resulted in greater international focus on the plight of the Cuban people.

We have noted a crucial and important pattern that has continually strengthened in the past few years. Leaders from around the world, including the European Union and Latin America, have 1) raised the issues of human rights and democracy directly in their discussions with Cuban government officials; 2) visited with dissidents in Cuba; and 3) spoken out publicly in Cuba in support of human rights and democracy.

These visits and other actions deliver to the Castro government a consistent, firm, thoughtful message that it must pay attention to the aspirations of its own people to be free, to live normal lives without fear of repression, to govern themselves, and to have the right and opportunity to reap the rewards of their own labor. The Cuban government is hearing the message at every turn that the international community considers peaceful democratic change in Cuba to be inevitable and demands that the Cuban government allow this transition to begin at last.

Other nations have taken steps to support democratic change and human rights in Cuba. For the second consecutive year, the Ibero-American Summit was marked by the diplomatic isolation of the Cuban government, as other heads of state criticized Cuba's undemocratic nature and abysmal human rights record. Fidel Castro's grandstanding and allegations that he was the subject of an assassination plot led to heated exchanges with the presidents of host country Panama and El Salvador, plus expressions of doubt about the Cuban justice system. Castro suffered further criticism when he, alone among all delegates, refused to sign a statement condemning terrorism, including ETA terrorists in Spain. The Spanish government criticized Cuba's role as the "only non-democratic country present." Not even at the November 1999 summit in Havana, when foreign leaders shocked their Cuban hosts by meeting with dissidents and publicly calling for reforms, was there evidence of the open animosity between Castro and elected leaders publicly displayed at the November 2000 summit in Panama.

In the same vein, the Government of Canada made clear that Cuba would not be invited to the 2001 Summit of the Americas, because the summit was for democracies only. For its part, the European Union has again renewed its Common Position on Cuba. The EU General Affairs Council has stated that the goal of the EU remains "the encouragement of a process of peaceful transition to pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable economic recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people." It noted that the Government of Cuba had taken no steps to merit a softening of EU policy.

There have also been significant steps among non-governmental groups and in the private sector. Some European NGOs in Cuba offer programs to aid the most vulnerable youth and the elderly, while other groups from Europe's formerly communist-run states have shared their experiences with Cuba's dissidents. European and other international NGOs have strongly criticized Cuba's human rights record as among the world's worst. The EU co-finances its NGOs' interaction with their Cuban counterparts and private sector technical assistance.

Since 1996, the Department of State has actively encouraged the effort to promote voluntary best business practices in Cuba. We continue to value the efforts of the National Policy Association and others in the international community working on this issue.

In conclusion, we continue to make significant progress in developing a multilateral, multi-faceted movement to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba. Only a few years ago, much of the international community ignored or was considerably less vocal about Cuba's human rights abuses. Now, throughout the world, leaders and individuals from every sector are expressing concern that the Cuban government continues to deny to the Cuban people inalienable rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even states that have been sympathetic to the Castro regime have become more vocal in recognizing its shortcomings in the areas of democracy, economics, and human rights. The Department of State consistently raises the need for continually greater international support for human rights and democracy in Cuba in meetings with American, European and Latin American officials, business, and NGO groups.

The Department of State is committed to peaceful efforts to assist the Cuban people in attaining the liberty they have sought for so long. It is our desire to see even stronger and more coordinated international policies that will help empower the Cuban people to determine their own democratic, prosperous future. We recognize the value of our close cooperation and consultation with Congress. We hope to continue to enjoy increasing success in our efforts internationally and with Congress and the American people to seek ways to bring about the goal of a peaceful transition to a free, prosperous, and democratic Cuba.

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