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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
US to tighten Cuba sanctions
President Bush
Bush: 'Cuba shall be free'
US President George W Bush has announced fresh measures designed to hasten the end of communist rule in Cuba.

They include tightening an American travel embargo to the island, cracking down on illegal cash transfers, and a more robust information campaign aimed at Cuba.

Mr Bush said the punitive measures were being introduced because the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, had acted with "defiance and contempt and a new round of brutal oppression that outraged world conscience".

The speech - before members of the Cuban community at the White House - came as the 2004 election campaign gets under way.

Mr Bush's advisers know that fiercely anti-Castro Cuban exiles living in the key state of Florida might well be hugely important in determining whether the president holds on to power, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

His speech today will have secured some valuable votes, our correspondent says.

Robust enforcement

Mr Bush was speaking on the day Cuba celebrates the 1868 start of its quest for independence from Spain.

"The struggle for freedom continues," the US president said.

Mr Bush said the current Cuban regime, the only one-party communist government in the Americas, would never change its policies.

Fidel Castro

"The Castro regime will not change by its own choice - but Cuba must change," Mr Bush promised.

The new measures announced include:

  • Strictly enforcing an existing US law forbidding Americans from travelling to Cuba for pleasure.

  • Cracking down on illegal money transfers

  • Imposing controls of shipments to the island.

  • Aggressive campaign to inform Cubans of safer routes to reach the United States

  • Increasing the number of Cuban immigrants in the US.

  • More US radio, television, satellite and internet broadcasts to break the "information embargo" Mr Castro had imposed on his people.

Beyond the more immediate measures, the US president announced he was setting up a "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba" to plan for the day communism would collapse.

Headed by the US secretary of state and the head of the department of housing, the new body would look ahead to the end of the regime.

International pressure

Secretary of State Colin Powell has been trying to enlist other nations in efforts to bring democracy to Cuba - and Mr Bush said more were joining.

In June, Mr Powell urged foreign ministers from the Organisation of American States meeting in Chile to join the United States in promoting a peaceful transition in Cuba.

Mr Castro ridiculed the idea, saying his country had a transition in 1959.

Cuban migrants trying to cross the Straits of Florida 16 July
Cubans would be informed of safer routes to the US
On Thursday, the head of Cuba's diplomatic mission in Washington said Mr Bush should "stop acting like a lawless cowboy" and "start listening to the voices of the nations of the world".

Analysts say the votes from the 400,000 Cuban-American community in Florida - a key state - could be crucial in the 2004 presidential election.

Mr Bush's relations with his supporters in Miami are said to have reached a low in July, when Washington returned 15 migrants to Cuba after receiving assurances they would not be executed for hijacking a boat.

The president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, criticised the decision.

Earlier this year, the jailing of 75 dissidents by the Cuban authorities drew international condemnation.

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs reports from Havana
"The US will offer more visas to Cubans wishing to emigrate"

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