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From Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of State in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State:
Regarding the Feb. 4 Point of View column on conditions in Cuba by Warren Howe, “U.S. ‘war’ against Cuba must end”: In March 2003, the Castro government handed out prison sentences, some as long as 25 years, to 75 democracy activists, whose crimes included owning a typewriter without a license and writing a report on Cuba’s economy that the government didn’t like.
Unfortunately, Howe’s tour of Cuba did not include a visit to the rat-infested prisons where Cubans who dare to disagree with the regime are held.
Howe’s description of Cuba as a “poor country” is accurate. Cuba is the world’s largest per capita debtor. Though the Cuban government enjoys good trade relations with Europe, Canada and Asia , the island is desperately poor because the Castro regime follows policies that benefit a small circle of government cronies while impoverishing the vast majority of Cubans.
Cuba does indeed suffer from food shortages, caused by the Castro regime’s inefficient collectivized agricultural system; Cuba’s state-dominated distribution system; a scarcity of foreign exchange caused by the government’s unwillingness to liberalize the economy or diversify its export base, and Cuba’s failure to pay the debts it owes to its European, Japanese and Latin American trading partners.
Howe would have received a valuable lecture on the sources of Cuban poverty from the ordinary workers at his hotel, had they been allowed to speak freely without fear of being fired or jailed.
The United States wants Cubans to decide if they want the freedoms that are commonplace and cherished by the 34 democratic nations in this hemisphere. Far from waging a war on the island, we are preparing and implementing actions that will speed the arrival of liberty to one of the last remaining outposts of tyranny.