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 the right to bring actions under Title III of the Act. The President made this decision because 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 the 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. Under President Clinton's leadership, we have made further progress in our ongoing efforts to encourage other nations, especially in Europe and Latin America, to take specific, concrete steps grounded in 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.
The President noted a crucial and important pattern that has strengthened in recent months. Leaders from around the world, including Spain, 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.
Through these visits and other actions, the Castro government is hearing 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 there must be peaceful democratic change.
Other nations have taken steps to support democratic change and human rights in Cuba. For the second consecutive year, the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) session in Vienna passed a Czech-Polish resolution condemning ongoing human rights abuses in Cuba. States like Mexico that had supported Cuba in the past at the UNCHR withdrew that support this year. Cuba subsequently canceled a visit of European Union leaders. It also withdrew its application to join the EU-sponsored organization to coordinate aid to Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific nations due to its perception that several EU members planned to reject Cuba's application barring political and economic reforms and respect for human rights. Several foreign visitors met with Cuban dissidents and publicly urged Fidel Castro to grant his people fundamental human freedoms.
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."
There have also been significant steps among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and in the private sector. European NGOs in Cuba offer programs to aid the most vulnerable youth and the elderly. 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 are very pleased with 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 the President's initiative to develop a multilateral, multi-faceted movement to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba. Prior to this effort, 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 basic rights to the Cuban people. The Department of State consistently raises the need for greater international support for human rights and democracy in Cuba in meetings with European and Latin American officials, businesses, and NGO groups.
The Department of State is committed to peaceful efforts to bring to Cuba the liberty the Cuban people have sought for so long. We recognize the value of our close cooperation and consultation with Congress. We will continue 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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