Bush Says Cubans Should Decide Island’s Future

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — President Bush urged Cubans to move away from a “tyrannical situation” under Fidel Castro, who fell ill last week, and create a government that better represents the island’s 11.4 million citizens.

“Our desire is for the Cuban people to choose their own form of government,” Mr. Bush said in a news conference at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

“We would hope that — and we’ll make this very clear — that Cuba has the possibility of transforming itself from a tyrannical situation to a different type of society.”

The Caribbean nation’s leader for more than 47 years, Mr. Castro underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding and gave his brother, Raul Castro, temporary control of the government on July 31.

Mr. Bush said that after Cubans decide on a new direction for their country, Cuban-Americans who have fled the island, which is less than 100 miles from Florida, may have an opportunity to reclaim land they left behind.

“Once the people of Cuba decide on the form of government, Cuban-Americans can take an interest in that country and redress the issues of property confiscation,” Mr. Bush said.

“But first things first, and that is the Cuban people need to decide the future of their country.”

The Bush administration’s stance was laid out in a July 10 report from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, headed by Secretary of State Rice and the commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez.

The report recommended a “diplomatic strategy to undermine the regime’s succession strategy by supporting the Cuban people’s right to determine their future; and measures to deny revenue to the Castro regime.”

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