A lot is being made of the fact that parts of President Bush’s speech from Wednesday have been reproduced in the official fishwrap of the communist party in Cuba and that excerpts have been broadcast on state TV. The implication of course is to say that Cuba is not afraid to publish or rebroadcast the words of the president and therefore prove him to be a liar when he talks about censorship.
While I was surprised that they would print or broadcast more than a few lines of the speech let’s not kid ourselves. On TV, 15 minutes worth of the speech were aired followed by 45 minutes of criticism of it. In print, all of the coverage is of course negative toward the president’s remarks. Notice that they don’t quote Guillermo Fariñas or Martha Beatriz Roque in Granma. That’s because those dissidents agree with the president.
For the record here’s the 1500 words of the Speech that Granma omitted from the paper. Since these are only the parts that were redacted the flow isn’t going to be so good.
Few issues have challenged this department — and our nation — longer than the situation in Cuba. Nearly half a century has passed since Cuba’s regime ordered American diplomats to evacuate our embassy in Havana. This was the decisive break of our diplomatic relations with the island, a troubling signal for the future of the Cuban people, and the dawn of an unhappy era between our two countries. In this building, President John F. Kennedy spoke about the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba’s dictatorship. And it was here where he announced the end of the missile crisis that almost plunged the world into nuclear war.
Today, another President comes with hope to discuss a new era for the United States and Cuba. The day is coming when the Cuban people will chart their own course for a better life. The day is coming when the Cuban people have the freedom they have awaited for so long. (Applause.)
I thank the members of the Diplomatic Corps who have joined us. I appreciate the Ambassadors to the Organization of American States who are with us. I particularly want to thank the Cuban families who have joined me on the stage.
One of the great success stories of the past century is the advance of economic and political freedom across Latin America. In this room are officials representing nations that are embracing the blessings of democratic government and free enterprise. And the United States is proud and active to work with you in your transformations.
One country in our region still isolates its people from the hope that freedom brings, and traps them in a system that has failed them. Forty-eight years ago, in the early moments of Cuba’s revolution, its leaders offered a prediction. He said — and I quote — “The worst enemies which the Cuban revolution can face are the revolutionaries themselves.” One of history’s great tragedies is that he made that dark prophecy come true.
It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission. Neighborhood Watch programs do not look out for criminals. Instead, they monitor their fellow citizens — keeping track of neighbors’ comings and goings, who visits them, and what radio stations they listen to. The sense of community and the simple trust between human beings is gone.
Cuba’s rulers promised an era of economic advancement. Instead they brought generations of economic misery. Many of the cars on the street pre-date the revolution — and some Cubans rely on horse carts for transportation. Housing for many ordinary Cubans is in very poor condition, while the ruling class lives in mansions. Clinics for ordinary Cubans suffer from chronic shortages in medicine and equipment. Many Cubans are forced to turn to the black market to feed their families. There are long lines for basic necessities — reminiscent of the Soviet bread lines of the last century. Meanwhile, the regime offers fully stocked food stores to foreign tourists, diplomats and businessmen in communism’s version of apartheid.
Hundreds are serving long prison sentences for political offenses such as the crime of “dangerousness” — as defined by the regime. Others have been jailed for the crime of “peaceful sedition” — which means whatever Cuban authorities decide it means.
One of them is Olga Alonso. Her brother, Ricardo Gonzalez Alonso [sic], has been harassed by Cuban authorities since he was 11 years old, because he wrote things that the Cuban authorities did not like. In 2003, Ricardo was arrested for his writings and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The authorities seized illegal contraband they found in his home. These included such things as a laptop computer, notebooks and a printer. Olga, we’re glad you’re here. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Marlenis Gonzalez and her daughter, Melissa, are here. They recently arrived from Cuba, but without Melissa’s father. Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero dared to defend the human rights of his countrymen. For that, he was arrested for crimes against the state. Now he languishes in poor health inside a Cuban prison. Bienvenidos. (Applause.)
Damaris Garcia y su tia, Mirta Pernet, are with us today. Damaris calls the Cuban government “a killing machine” — those are her words. They’ve seen relatives imprisoned for supporting liberty. One beloved family member, Omar Pernet Hernandez, was a poor man who sold candy on the streets of Havana. For advocating freedom, he is serving a sentence of 25 years. He’s 62 years old, he’s emaciated. Yet he remains a determined advocate for human rights for the Cuban people. Bienvenidos. (Applause.)
Also with us is Yamile Llanes Labrada. Yamile’s husband, Jorge [sic] Luis Garcia Paneque, was a surgeon and journalist. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison for daring speak the truth about the regime. Yamile herself was accused of espionage and she feared for the safety of her four children. After Jos ‘s arrest, a mob organized by state authorities surrounded their house. The mob carried sticks and threatened to set fire to the house with the family inside. Earlier this year, Yamile and her children made it off the island. They do not know when they’ll see their father again. Bienvenidos, Yamile. (Applause.)
I want to thank each of you [for] coming today. I thank you for allowing me to share your stories, and I thank you for your courage. I ask that God watch over you and your loved ones. Que Dios les bendiga a ustedes y a sus familias. And I join your prayers for a day when the light of liberty will shine on Cuba.
These are just a few of the examples of the terror and trauma that is Cuba today. The socialist paradise is a tropical gulag. The quest for justice that once inspired the Cuban people has now become a grab for power. And as with all totalitarian systems, Cuba’s regime no doubt has other horrors still unknown to the rest of the world. Once revealed, they will shock the conscience of humanity. And they will shame the regime’s defenders and all those democracies that have been silent. (Applause.) One former Cuban political prisoner, Armando Valladares, puts it this way: It will be a time when “mankind will feel the revulsion it felt when the crimes of Stalin were brought to light.” And that time is coming.
As we speak, calls for fundamental change are growing across the island. Peaceful demonstrations are spreading. Earlier this year leading Cuban dissidents came together for the first time to issue the Unity of Freedom — a declaration for democratic change. They hear the dying gasps of a failed regime. They know that even history’s cruelest nightmares cannot last forever. A restive people who long to rejoin the world at last have hope. And they will bring to Cuba a real revolution — a revolution of freedom, democracy and justice. (Applause.)
They can open up their embassies in Havana to pro-democracy leaders and invite them to different events. They can use their lobbies of the embassies to give Cubans access to the Internet and to books and to magazines. They can encourage their country’s non-governmental organizations to reach out directly to Cuba’s independent civil society.
We will know there is a new Cuba when opposition parties have the freedom to organize, assemble and speak with equal access to the airwaves. We will know there is a new Cuba when a free and independent press has the power to operate without censors. We will know there is a new Cuba when the Cuban government removes its stranglehold on private economic activity.
And above all, we will know there is a new Cuba when authorities go to the prisons, walk to the cells where people are being held for their beliefs and set them free. (Applause.) It will be a time when the families here are reunited with their loved ones, and when the names of free people — including dissidents such as Oscar Elias Biscet, Normando Hernandez Gonzales, and Omar Rodriguez Saludes are free. (Applause.) It will be a moment when Cubans of conscience are released from their shackles — not as a gesture or a tactic, but because the government no longer puts people in prison because of what they think, or what they say or what they believe.
Cuba’s transition from a shattered society to a free country may be long and difficult. Things will not always go as hoped. There will be difficult adjustments to make. One of the curses of totalitarianism is that it affects everyone. Good people make moral compromises to feed their families, avoid the whispers of neighbors, and escape a visit from the secret police. If Cuba is to enter a new era, it must find a way to reconcile and forgive those who have been part of the system but who do not have blood on their hands. They’re victims as well.
To the ordinary Cubans who are listening: You have the power to shape your own destiny. You can bring about a future where your leaders answer to you, where you can freely express your beliefs and where your children can grow up in peace. Many experts once said that that day could never come to Eastern Europe, or Spain or Chile. Those experts were wrong. When the Holy Father came to Cuba and offered God’s blessings, he reminded you that you hold your country’s future in your hands. And you can carry this refrain in your heart: Su dia ya viene llegando. Your day is coming soon. (Applause.)
Notably, the Granma excerpts omit Bush’s mention of the CDRs (neighborhood spies), his highlights of the failures of the Cuban economy, the names of the political prisoners whose relatives he had on the podium, and the mention of Armando Valladares and his feelings about the coming revelations about communist Cuba. Also omitted were the criteria under which the US would recognize that Cuba had indeed changed, and the call to ordinary citizens to shape the destiny of their country.
The publishing of extensive excerpts of a president’s speech on Cuba is certainly novel but it’s a calculated risk. The Cuban government did censor the speech by omitting important parts. Also the official Granma translation does call the embargo “the bloqueo” on one occasion. Obviously that’s a faulty translation that was done intentionally. I’m surprised they didn’t do it every time he said the word embargo. I suspect that in a rush to get it out there they didn’t sanitize the speech as much as they would have liked to.