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Cuba denounces brutal bush measures { May 7 2004 }

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Cuba Denounces 'Brutal' Bush Measures
Fri May 7, 2004 12:19 PM ET

By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's communist government on Friday denounced President Bush's plans to hasten its demise as "brutal" interference in another country's affairs.

Bush took measures on Thursday to reduce the flow of dollars to cash-strapped Cuba while stepping up propaganda broadcasts and support for opponents of President Fidel Castro, in power since a 1959 revolution.

Visits by Cuban-American relatives, whose remittances inject about $1 billion in badly needed cash into the island's economy, will be limited to one trip every three years to deny resources to what Bush called a "tyranny."

The ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma reported the U.S. decisions under a banner headline: "Brutal economic and political measures against our country and against Cubans residing in the United States."

"The solid support for the Revolution by almost all of the population makes it invulnerable to Mr. Bush's rotten ideology," Granma said.

Havana charged that White House plans to deploy a C-130 military plane to beam television signals into Cuba and counter Cuban jamming of the U.S. funded TV Marti were a violation of international broadcast rules.

The White House said it would spend $59 million over the next two years to hasten Castro's end by supporting pro-democracy groups, relatives of imprisoned dissidents and spreading information about human rights abuses in Cuba. Up to $18 million of the earmarked funds will pay for airborne broadcasts to Cuba.

The Cuban government complained that tougher U.S. sanctions come at a time of rising world prices for food and are aimed at hitting tourism, the island's main source of hard currency.


Cuban dissidents, branded by Castro as traitors on Washington's payroll, did not see Bush's measures as leading to democratic change.

"This is counterproductive, because you cannot promote democracy just with money," said veteran human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez.

Bush's plan to bring a speedy end to the Castro era will give the Cuban government a pretext to repress dissent in the name of a larger threat from an external enemy, Sanchez said. "Anyone who accepts American money will exposed to arrest," he said.

Ordinary Cubans, many of whom rely on money from relatives in the United States to supplement their meager wages, were relieved that Bush had not cut a $1,200 a year ceiling on money Cuban Americans can send to their families.

The White House opted for stronger enforcement of existing restrictions and "sting" operations to catch "mules" carrying illegal sums of money to Cuba.

Last year 120,000 Cuban-Americans visited Cuba, loaded with presents and goods for their relatives enduring the scarcities of a battered socialist economy.

Cuba watchers questioned the timing of the measures and said they appeared to be tailored to curry favor with hard-line Cuba-American voters in Florida, a key state in November's presidential election.

Florida is home to around 450,000 registered Cuban-American voters. The Cuban emigre community divided between tough action to depose Castro and more fluid contact with their families on the island.

"There will be an impact, but it won't be the impact the White House envisioned. Cuban Americans will travel and send money to Cuba through third countries," said Paolo Spadoni, a University of Florida Cuba expert.

He said illegal remittances taken by "mules" will thrive.

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