Pity poor Thomas Shannon, the US State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. He now has the unenviable task of travelling the world trying to convince governments and international organisations that they should contribute to President Bush’s proposed multi-billion dollar ‘Freedom Fund for Cuba.’
While the US President has formally asked the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and the Cuban born US Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, to lead this effort, it will be Mr Shannon who will have to do the work.
The fund was one of a number of new initiatives contained in a speech made in Washington by the US President on October 24.
The remarks, President Bush’s first on Cuba for four years, proposed a post-regime change fund “to help the Cuban people rebuild the economy and make the transition to democracy” through grants, loans and debt relief.
It also proposed to license NGOs and faith-based groups to provide computers and internet access to the Cuban people and to invite Cuban young people into the Partnership for Latin American Youth Scholarship programmes to have “equal access to greater educational opportunities.”
The sub-text however was more interesting. The speech made clear that the US administration was not prepared to accept any dialogue with the island’s collegiate leadership. This is despite public and other recent suggestions from the Cuban government that it was willing to open a dialogue based on mutual respect with Washington in the hope that this might lead eventually to more normal relations.
The United States, the US President said, “was prepared to take new measures right now