After President George W. Bush gave his "historic" speech on Cuba policy, US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon gave an "On the Record" Briefing to the press.
What I found interesting about this exchange with the press is the fact that Sec. Gutierrez avoids specifics about the so-called "international multi-billion dollar Freedom Fund for Cuba." The Fact Sheet attached to the President's speech says that Sec. Gutierrez and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will "lead the effort to form the Freedom Fund", but Sec. Gutierrez avoided the question asking if the Freedom Fund is "something that you are setting out to do or is it something that may happen." He gave no answer.
I personally think the "Fund" is BS.
Also, in the beginning, Sec. Gutierrez incorrectly states the official conditions that would initiate the Freedom Fund for Cuba. He adds the condition of releasing all Cuban political prisoners, which is absent in the President's speech and the Fact Sheet.
Thomas Shannon really has nothing spectacular to say, but Sec. Gutierrez gets some tough questions. And here's some weird answers:
Question: I would like to know why this speech now? Why today? Why not one month before? Why now? Is there a timing or -- Secretary Gutierrez: Well, you know, the President of the United States' calendar is very full and today happened to be a good day to get it on his calendar and to make the speech. And it seemed like as good of a day -- better than tomorrow and better than yesterday. So you know it's just one of these things.
Question: You just mentioned that you want to see changes first (inaudible) before, but a year has passed already since the transition between Fidel and Raul and there is no talking, discussions with the Cubans. What if the Raul government keeps on going by their own hand for the next five years? The U.S. will still keep -- Secretary Gutierrez: Yes. I mean, that's the policy -- the President was very clear if that's the future of the Cuban regime, then that's very, very unfortunate for the people of Cuba because then it means that people will be living under oppression, they'll be living without freedom of speech, without freedom to read, without freedom to travel, without freedom to open up a business, without freedom to worship. So what if? I would say that's a big, big shame for the people in Cuba who deserve freedom.
Question: But that policy hasn't worked in 48 years, so what about trying something new? Secretary Gutierrez: No, but as we've said before and the President's said, the policy is designed to not give oxygen to a dictator, to not put resources in their hands. Again, we have the benefit of 48 years. When they had resources, they -- at one time, they wanted to keep those -- you know, going back to 1962, the missile crisis, going back to their adventure in Africa, going back to their adventure in Central America. When they have had resources, those resources have never been used to improve the lives of Cubans. They've been used to harass governments overseas. They've been used for foreign adventures. Again, we've had 48 years to observe and I don't think we should be naive about that.