THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release January 3, 1997
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Last July, I allowed Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD Act) to come into force but suspended for six months the right it grants to American nationals to bring suit against foreign firms trafficking in confiscated properties in Cuba. I took this step so that we could have time to develop a more common approach with our allies and trading partners to promote democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba. We and our allies agree on the vital need for a transition to democracy on the island, but differences over how to achieve that aim have often overshadowed the goal itself. That is why I decided to make maximum use of Title III to increase pressure on the Castro regime by working with our allies -- not against them -- to accelerate change in Cuba.
Over the past six months, our efforts have yielded real progress. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Under-Secretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat, who serves as my Special Representative for the Promotion of Democracy in Cuba, the international community is more united behind the cause of freedom in Cuba than ever before in the 38-year history of Castro's oppressive regime.
Today, in order to consolidate and build on the momentum we have generated for democratic change in Cuba, I have decided to extend for another six months the suspension of the right to file suit under Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.
A number of developments show the strengthened international consensus for change in Cuba. The European Union, acting consistent with its traditional democratic values, in December adopted an historic ?Common Position? binding all 15 member nations to promote democracy and reform in Cuba. The EU's action explicitly makes any improvement in political or economic relations with Cuba contingent on concrete advances in human rights and political freedoms on the island. At the Ibero-American Summit in Santiago in November, heads of state from Latin America, Spain and Portugal called for democracy and full respect for human rights, thus emphasizing Cuba's isolation as the hemisphere's only non-democratic nation.
Governments and non-governmental organizations are increasing their backing for dissidents on the island and keeping international attention focused on repression in Cuba. A new European Platform for Human Rights and Democracy in Cuba is being created to help coordinate NGO activity to strengthen independent groups in Cuba. European business leaders and organizations are supporting a set of best-business practices so, if they invest in Cuba, it will benefit Cuban workers and not the government. Europe's major labor organization, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, has strongly condemned Castro's labor practices and called for free trade unions.
These and other steps have sent a clarion message of hope to the Cuban people. They underscore that it is Castro who is isolated, not those who welcome the democratic tide of history. They demonstrate the international community's resolve to end the dictatorship so the people of Cuba can enjoy the freedom and prosperity they deserve.
The international momentum we have built to promote democracy in Cuba must be preserved and strengthened. During the coming six months and thereafter, we will continue working with our allies to develop the most comprehensive, effective measures to promote democracy in Cuba that we can. We also will continue to enforce Title IV of the LIBERTAD Act.
The law requires that I review Title III every six months. I would expect to continue suspending the right to file suit so long as America's friends and allies continue their stepped-up efforts to promote a transition to democracy in Cuba. I hope, furthermore, that the momentum created by the EU's actions will lead to similar Cuba democracy efforts by others, including governments in our own hemisphere.
The Cuban people have lived under tyranny for too long. We must sustain our efforts to hasten the arrival of democracy in Cuba. As a result of increasing international pressure, we have never been closer to that day. We will not be satisfied until that day arrives.
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