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Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 01:29 GMT 02:29 UK
US tightens sanctions on Cuba
Havana
Bush ordered additional funding for pro-democracy programmes in Cuba
US President George W Bush has ordered stricter enforcement of a four-decade-old trade embargo against Cuba and pledged his support for pro-democracy opposition there.

Experts say the move is an attempt to avert criticism by Cuban-Americans of a decision expected next week suspending for a further six months the right of US firms to sue foreign companies doing business with expropriated properties in Cuba.


It is important that we uphold and enforce the law to the fullest extent... ensuring humanitarian and cultural exchanges actually reach pro-democracy activists in Cuba

President Bush
In a statement issued on the seventh anniversary of the sinking of a Cuban tugboat whose 72 passengers were trying to flee Cuba, Mr Bush said sanctions against Cuba were not just a policy tool, but a "moral statement."

"Seven years ago today, a tugboat carrying 72 people off the coast of Cuba...was repeatedly rammed by Cuban authorities resulting in 41 deaths, including 10 children," Mr Bush said.

"The tyranny that rules Cuba today bears direct responsibility for this and other crimes - crimes, that should not go unpunished, against innocent civilians and countless other human rights violations over the years," he said.

Additional funding

Mr Bush said he had asked the Treasury Department to enhance and expand the sanction enforcement capabilities of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

US President George W Bush
Bush: has until Monday to decide on the suspension

"It is important that we uphold and enforce the law to the fullest extent with a view toward preventing unlicensed and excessive travel, enforcing limits on remittances and ensuring humanitarian and cultural exchanges actually reach pro-democracy activists in Cuba," he said.

Mr Bush also ordered additional funding for non-governmental organisations to work on pro-democracy programmes in Cuba.

By Monday Mr Bush must decide whether he will extend a politically sensitive suspension of a provision in the 1996 Helms-Burton act that allows US citizens to sue anyone dealing in properties seized after Cuban leader Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Undecided

Former President Bill Clinton suspended the legal provision every six months to avoid angering European nations and Canada who have business interests in Cuba.

This is the first time since he became president that Mr Bush has had to make the decision.

Mr Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said on Friday Mr Bush had not yet made up his mind on the waiver.

But analysts and government sources said Mr Bush was expected to suspend the provision, believing it was in the US national interest and was the best way to achieve democratic change in Cuba.

See also:

12 Jul 01 | Business
US threat to Cuban investors
07 Jul 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Paranoia in Cuba
06 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cuba
27 Jun 01 | Business
Cuba's organic revolution
19 May 01 | Americas
Bush stands firm on Cuban sanctions
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