Thursday, June 28, 2007

“Freedom before stability”

President Bush spoke extemporaneously about Cuba today at the Naval War College. His Cuba remarks were part of a long answer to a question about Latin America:

“There’s only one non-democracy in our neighborhood: that’s Cuba. And I strongly believe the people of Cuba ought to live in a free society. It’s in our interests that Cuba become free and it’s in the interests of the Cuban people that they don’t have to live under an antiquated form of government -- that has just been repressive.

“So we’ll continue to press for freedom on the island of Cuba. One day, the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away (laughter) -- no, no, no -- then, the question is, what will be the approach of the U.S. government? My attitude is, is that we need to use the opportunity to call the world together to promote democracy as the alternative to the form of government they have been living with.

“You’ll see an interesting debate. Some will say, all that matters is stability, which in my judgment would just simply reinforce the followers of the current regime. I think we ought to be pressing hard for democracy.

“I went overseas to the Czech Republic and gave a speech on democracy. I saw Vaclav Havel. You might remember him, he was the leader of the Velvet Revolution that helped lead Eastern Europe to a new form of government -- new forms of government. And he’s very much interested in the United States’ attitude toward Cuba, because he believes we need to be promoting freedom before stability.

“It’s going to be an interesting challenge for our country. We’re working, by the way -- back to your question, can we do more than one thing at one time – we’re working very closely with the Navy and Coast Guard to make sure that there is not any issues when it comes between the United States and Cuba, should there be a -- when there is a transition.”

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