Call for Referendum Runs Counter to Our Cuba Policy

The law and policy of the United States with regard to Cuba make clear that there will be no normalization of relations, or weakening of any sanctions on the Cuban regime, until all political prisoners are liberated, all political parties are legalized, and a democratic transition leading to free and fair elections is clearly underway in Cuba.

President Bush has reiterated our policy. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon recently restated our policy, as has Secretary Gutierrez in the past. The inclusion of a new suggestion such as the one for a "referendum" associated with the Organization of American States (OAS) made Friday by Secretary Gutierrez, was unfortunate and inappropriate. While we all celebrate the referendum that took place in Chile in 1988, it is well known, for example, that Hugo Chavez, who has embarked upon on a campaign to destroy all democratic institutions in Venezuela, carried out a fraudulent referendum in August 2004 that was "validated" by the OAS. The statement by Secretary Gutierrez last week served to diminish the necessary clarity with which U.S. policy toward Cuba needs to be conveyed.