US cracks down on Cuba

The United States has announced tighter inspections on US citizens traveling to Cuba and a crackdown on illegal business with the communist island.

    Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed Batista regime in 1959

    Roger

    Noriega, US a

    ssistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, said on Friday there would be a "100 % inspection of flights

    to Cuba".

    He added: "We're looking at agencies that do business that benefit the

    regime that we want to identify and cut off."

    President George Bush announced the stricter measures in

    October as well as the creation of a Commission for Assistance to

    a Free Cuba.

    Democratic Cuba 

    The agency is headed by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and

    Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez

    "to shepherd a democratic transition in Cuba".

    Noriega said: "Our efforts to enforce restrictions of financial transactions

    that benefit the regime has been stepped up in a dramatic fashion

    since the president's October 10 announcement." 

    Anti-Castro Cuban exiles were
    instrumental in electing Bush

    The commission met for the first time on Friday at the White House

    with Bush's national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and others.

    The group is charged with drafting a report for delivery to Bush

    by 1 May on what each US government agency could contribute to

    accelerating and preparing for a transition in Cuba.

    Punitive sanctions

    Noriega

    said the United States also wanted to make sure "that there

    will be no succession to the Castro regime but that there will be a

    profound and deep political and economic change that will benefit

    the Cuban people after a 45-year nightmare."

    The United States has imposed punitive sanctions on Cuba for around 40 years, and

    Bush is the latest of 10 successive US presidents to openly seek to overthrow the Cuban government.

    However, Cuba says US hostility does not stem from its government's

     human rights failings, but rather from its social and political successes and unyielding independence.

    Cuba has achieved first world health and education standards, and its infant mortality and literacy rates now rival or outstrip those of the US, while its class sizes are a third smaller than in Britain.

    SOURCE: AFP


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