A government commission is recommending to President Bush a series of measures to cut U.S. dollar flows to Cuba as part of a broader policy to hasten the end of the country’s communist system, an administration official said Sunday night.
A commission report, in preparation for six months and overseen by Secretary of State Colin Powell, also calls for steps to overcome Cuban jamming of U.S.-government sponsored radio and television broadcasts to Cuba, the official said.
The official, asking not to be identified in advance of the report’s public release, said it urges increased support for Cuban dissidents and families of political prisoners and also calls for measures to encourage foreign governments to distance themselves from the Cuban regime.
Last October, Bush announced the creation of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and set a May 1 deadline for completion of a report. The concept and the timing appeared to be linked to maintaining in the November elections the solid support Bush received in 2000 from Cuban-Americans in Florida. Without their backing, the election would have gone to Democrat Al Gore.
Four of the five chapters in the 500-page report deal with ways to assist a post-Castro government that seeks to establish democracy. The other chapter focuses on ways to end Castro’s government.
Until now, the administration’s policy has been to hasten a democratic transition in Cuba. The commission report goes a step further in recommending what amounts to regime change. Bush is expected make a final decision on the report later in the week. Some details in the report were disclosed in Sunday’s editions of The Miami Herald.
Cuban officials have been awaiting the commission’s recommendations with intense interest, warning citizens that U.S. military action could not be ruled out.
Fiery Castro speech
In a May Day speech on Saturday, Castro said Cuba would defend itself “to the last drop of blood,” against possible U.S. aggression. Administration officials should be “calmer, more sensible, wiser and more intelligent” than they have been in the past in their policy toward Cuba, Castro said.
Bush has thwarted efforts by Congress to ease the U.S. embargo against Cuba but has disappointed some in the Cuban-American community for not doing more to bring about Castro’s demise.
Still unresolved, according to the administration official, was a decision on whether to recommend a cut in the legal limit of $1,200 a year that Cuban-Americans are allowed to send to friends and relatives on the island. Much of the money ends up in government coffers.
Some officials are advocating that remittances be eliminated altogether to deprive Castro of an important source of income. Others recommend that the current limit be retained for humanitarian reasons. The official predicted that the final decision would be somewhere in between.
Another target is revenue that Cuba reaps from overweight baggage fees paid by Cuban-Americans who fly to Cuba with medicine and other items.
The official said the report recommends that passengers departing for Cuba adhere to the 40-pound weight limit to avoid overweight fees on arrival.