Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bush not impressed with changes in Cuba


“Until there is a change of heart and a change of compassion and a change of how the Cuban government treats its people, there is no change at all.”

The above quote is from President George W. Bush's address to the Council of the Americas at the US State Department on May 7, 2008. With the resignation of Fidel Castro and the new presidency of his 76-year old brother, Raul Castro, many people are expecting a less strict, changed, "opening up", of the communist country.

Truth be told, while there has been some change, for many critics these have been seen as merely cosmetic. For others, it is a signal of a new day dawning, albeit slowly. However, Bush states that “If Cuba wants to join the community of civilized nations, then Cuban rulers must begin a process of peaceful and democratic change and the first step must be the release of all political prisoners.” He further stressed that US policies towards Cuba “…must not change until the people of Cuba are free.”

Today, Cubans can now stay at the same hotels as tourists if they can afford it, which unfortunately only a very few can do. Other changes that have been implemented include the fact that there is no longer a restriction on the purchase of computers, pressure cookers and taking out cellphone contracts. In referring to these changes, Bush noted that these are things that the average Cuban cannot afford anyway.

The American president stated that the reforms in Cuba are ‘empty gestures’ and accused Raul Castro of not being serious about implanting reforms in the communist island.

Interestingly, Jamaica’s current Prime Minister, Bruce Golding has done what no other Jamaica Labour Party leader has done before – visited Cuba and met with President Raul Castro. The Jamaican Prime Minister and his entourage made a state visit from May 4 – 7 to further cement ties with Cuba that already existed between the two islands thanks to the Socialist regime of the People’s National Party in the 1970s.

In a statement to Parliament on February 20, 2008 concerning Fidel Castro’s resignation, Prime Minister Golding said that “As far as Jamaica is concerned, we expect that under the new leadership that will emerge, good relations between our countries will continue. Indeed, just last week I received an official invitation from Acting President Raul Castro to pay an official visit to Cuba. I indicated to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that I am accepting the invitation and discussions will take place with the Cuban authorities to determine the appropriate time for that visit bearing in mind the transition that will now be underway.”

Although having good relations with the USA, Jamaica’s decades long relationship with Cuba has not been a major bone of contention since the 1980s. As such, Jamaicans are little concerned that this visit by the prime Minister will have any repercussions in spite of President Bush’s recent statements about the communist island.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

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