updated 8/4/2006 6:40:23 PM ET 2006-08-04T22:40:23

Following is the text of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's message to the Cuban people.

Today, I would like to speak directly to the Cuban people. We in the United States are closely watching the events in Cuba. Much is changing there, yet one thing remains constant: America's commitment to supporting a future of freedom for Cuba, a future that will be defined by you — the Cuban people.

The United States respects your aspirations as sovereign citizens. And we will stand with you to secure your rights — to speak as you choose, to think as you please, to worship as you wish, and to choose your leaders, freely and fairly, in democratic elections.

All Cubans who desire peaceful democratic change can count on the support of the United States. We encourage the Cuban people to work at home for positive change, and we stand ready to provide you with humanitarian assistance, as you begin to chart a new course for your country.

The United States is also encouraging all democratic nations to join together and call for the release of political prisoners, for the restoration of your fundamental freedoms, and for a transition that quickly leads to multiparty elections in Cuba.

It has long been the hope of the United States that a free, independent, and democratic Cuba would be more than just a close neighbor — it would be a close friend. This is our goal, now more than ever, and throughout this time of change, all of you must know that you have no greater friend than the United States of America.

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