Castro Health Crisis Signals
Start of Political Change in Cuba
Washington D.C., VOA News
The U.S. State Department's senior official for Latin America said
President Fidel Castro's health crisis signals the beginning of political
change in Cuba. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Thomas Shannon says he does not believe an effort to perpetuate communist
rule on the island can succeed. Shannon says a transition effort is
In the most detailed comments to date by a senior U.S. official about
the events in Cuba, Shannon said it is likely that a behind-the-scenes
effort has begun in Havana to perpetuate communist rule, but that
the circumstances of the Castro dictatorship make that difficult.
"Authoritarian regimes are like helicopters," he said. "They're
'single fail-point' mechanisms. When a rotor comes off a helicopter,
it crashes. When a supreme leader disappears from an authoritarian
regime, the authoritarian regime flounders. It doesn't have the direction
it requires. And I think that's what we're seeing at this moment."
Shannon dismissed published suggestions that Raul Castro might be
reform-minded and capable of being a transitional leader for Cuba,
citing his past record as a ruthless facilitator of his brother's
He also said that, given the regime's harsh treatment of dissenters,
especially in recent years, there is no visible opposition leader
to turn to, though the country's dissident movement has proven durable.
"There is not an over-arching figure, such as a Lech Walesa,
in Cuba at this point," he noted. "But there are a series
of very courageous, very articulate individuals who have worked hard
to build democratic civil society and dissident movements. And what
we believe the international community should be working towards is
creating an environment that allows these groups to begin to communicate
with each other, and then communicate more broadly with the Cuban
Shannon said the Bush administration's Cuba policy, backed by $129
million in recent funding from Congress, is aimed at opening so-called
political space in Cuba by providing a free flow of information, via
stepped-up U.S. broadcasting and uncensored Internet access.
He said the key to the future stability of Cuba is democracy, which
is something he said the United States and international community
can encourage, but not impose.
Under questioning, Shannon said he hopes that Venezuela, which under
populist President Hugo Chavez has provided massive aid to the Castro
government, will join the rest of the hemisphere in supporting a transition
He said the Cuba-Venezuela relationship now is largely one between
the two leaders, and that it remains to be seen what will happen to
it when a non-Castro Cuba emerges.
© VOA News
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