Cuban regime ‘ending’, Clinton tells Congress

Washington, April 23 (Inditop) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Cuba’s current communist regime “is ending” and that the US must prepare to deal with a new reality on the island.

“You can see there is beginning to be a debate (in Cuba), I mean this is a regime that is ending. It will end at some point,” she said in her first appearance as secretary of state before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

She also added that if Congress decides that the best thing for US interests is to lift the economic embargo Washington imposed on Cuba in 1962, “obviously, the administration will abide by that”.

By law, any attempt to end the embargo is subject to congressional approval.

Clinton reiterated President Barack Obama’s position that Havana must take steps toward democratisation and that Washington is prepared to enter into a wide-ranging dialogue that includes human rights and the release of Cuba’s estimated 205 political prisoners.

“We’re going to proceed very carefully in this process,” she said.

“Our goal is for a free, independent democracy that gives the people of Cuba a chance to have the same opportunities that their sisters and brothers and cousins that they have in our country,” the secretary told lawmakers.

According to Clinton, Obama’s recent move to lift restrictions on Cuban Americans’ travel and remittances to the communist-ruled island has sparked an internal debate in Cuba.

She referred in particular to the apparent differences between President Raul Castro and elder brother Fidel on the issues to be included in possible talks with Washington.

Fidel Castro said Tuesday that Havana would order the release of dozens of dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown only if, in exchange, Washington frees five Cuban agents serving sentences for espionage in the US.

Havana sent the five agents to South Florida to spy on the Cuban exile community. The espionage operation followed several terrorist bombings on the communist island that were allegedly masterminded by Miami-based anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles.

Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would end restrictions on travel to Cuba for all US residents and reduce some of the encumbrances to the small amount of trade permitted under the embargo.