Washington, D.C. — In an emotional speech before a group that included the relatives of Cuban political prisoners, President Bush made clear Wednesday that confrontational U.S. policy toward Havana will last through the end of his time in office. However, the emerging question is whether it will extend beyond his presidency, with lawmakers and politicians in both parties raising questions about the wisdom of the long-standing U.S. approach.
Appearing at the State Department, the president offered Cuba computers and Internet access - as well as scholarships for its youths - but only if Havana relaxes restrictions on such activities. He announced efforts to create an international "freedom fund" for Cuba that would finance reconstruction once the government offers free speech and free elections.
Bush also had pointed words for other countries that have criticized the U.S. strategy of isolation as counterproductive. "Now is the time to stand with the Cuban people as they stand up for their liberty," Bush said. "And now is the time for the world to put aside its differences and prepare for Cuba's transition to a future of freedom and progress and promise."