Apartheid en Cuba
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    JUNE 5, 2007


    [*] BUSH: President Ilves, Foreign Minister Swarzenberg, and
    distinguished guests: Laura and I are pleased to be back in Prague, and
    we appreciate the gracious welcome to this historic hall. Tomorrow I
    will attend the G-8 Summit, where I will meet with the leaders of the
    world's most powerful economies. This afternoon, I stand with men and
    women who represent an even greater power — the power of human

    In this room are dissidents and democratic activists from 17 countries
    on five continents. You follow different traditions — you practice
    different faiths — and you face different challenges. But you are
    united by an unwavering conviction: that freedom is the non- negotiable
    right of every man, woman, and child — and the path to lasting peace in
    our world.

    This conference was conceived by three of the great advocates for
    freedom in our time: Jose Maria Aznar, Vaclav Havel, and Natan
    Sharansky. I thank them for the invitation to address this inspiring
    assembly — and for showing the world that an individual with moral
    clarity and courage can change the course of history.

    It is fitting that we meet in the Czech Republic — a nation at the
    heart of Europe, and of the struggle for freedom on this continent. Nine
    decades ago, Tomas Masaryk proclaimed Czechoslovakia's independence
    based on the "ideals of modern democracy." That democracy was
    interrupted -first by the Nazis and then by the Communists, who seized
    power in a shameful coup that left the Foreign Minister dead in the
    courtyard of this palace.

    Through the long darkness of Soviet occupation, the true face of this
    nation was never in doubt. The world saw it in the reforms of the Prague
    Spring and the principled demands of Charter 77. Those efforts were met
    with tanks and truncheons and arrests by secret police. But the violent
    would not have the final word. In 1989, thousands gathered in Wenceslas
    Square to call for their freedom. Theaters like the Magic Lantern became
    headquarters for dissidents. Workers left their factories to support a
    strike. And within weeks, the regime crumbled. Vaclav Havel went from
    prisoner of state to head of state. And the people of Czechoslovakia
    brought down the Iron Curtain with a Velvet Revolution.

    Across Europe, similar scenes were unfolding. In Poland, a movement that
    began in a single shipyard freed people across a nation. In Hungary,
    mourners gathered in Heroes Square to bury a slain reformer — and
    buried their communist regime too. In East Germany, families came
    together for prayer meetings — and found the strength to tear down a
    wall. Soon, activists emerged from the attics and church basements to
    reclaim the streets of Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Latvia, Lithuania,
    and Estonia. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved peacefully in this very room.
    And after seven decades of oppression, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

    Behind these astonishing achievements was the triumph of freedom in the
    battle of ideas. The Communists had an imperial ideology that claimed to
    know the direction of history. But in the end, it was overpowered by
    ordinary people who wanted to live their lives, and worship their God,
    and speak the truth to their children without fear. The Communists had
    the harsh rule of Brezhnev, and Honecker, and Ceausescu. But in the end,
    it was no match for the vision of Walesa and Havel — the defiance of
    Sakharov and Sharansky — the resolve of Reagan and Thatcher — and the
    fearless witness of John Paul. From this experience, a clear lesson has
    emerged: Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed — but
    freedom cannot be denied.

    In the years since liberation, Central and Eastern European nations have
    navigated the difficult transition to democracy. Leaders made the tough
    reforms needed to enter NATO and the European Union. Citizens claimed
    their freedom in the Balkans and beyond. And now, after centuries of war
    and suffering, the continent of Europe is at peace at last.

    With this new era have come new threats to freedom. In dark and
    repressive corners of the world, whole generations grew up with no voice
    in their government and no hope in their future. This life of oppression
    bred deep resentment. And for many, resentment boiled over into
    radicalism and violence. The world saw the result on September the 11th,
    2001 — when terrorists based in Afghanistan sent 19 suicidal men to
    murder nearly 3,000 innocent people in the United States.

    For some, this attack called for a narrow response. In truth,
    Nine-Eleven was evidence of a much broader danger — an international
    movement of violent Islamic extremists that threatens free people
    everywhere. The extremists' ambition is to build a totalitarian empire
    that spans all current and former Muslim lands — including parts of
    Europe. And their strategy to achieve that goal is to frighten the world
    into surrender through a ruthless campaign of terrorist murder.

    To confront this enemy, America and our allies have taken the offensive
    with the full range of our military, intelligence, and law enforcement
    capabilities. Yet this battle is more than a military conflict. Like the
    Cold War, it is an ideological struggle between two fundamentally
    different visions of humanity. On one side are the extremists, who
    promise paradise but deliver a life of public beatings, repression of
    women, and suicide bombings. On the other side are huge numbers of
    moderate men and women — including millions in the Muslim world — who
    believe that every human life has dignity and value that no power on
    earth can take away.

    The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not
    bullets or bombs — it is the universal appeal of freedom. Freedom is
    the design of our Maker, and the longing of every soul. Freedom is the
    best way to unleash the creativity and economic potential of a nation.
    Freedom is the only ordering of a society that leads to justice. And
    human freedom is the only way to achieve human rights.

    Expanding freedom is more than a moral imperative — it is the only
    realistic way to protect our people. Years ago, Andrei Sakharov warned
    that "a country that does not respect the rights of its own people will
    not respect the rights of its neighbors." History proves him right.
    Governments accountable to their people do not attack each other.
    Democracies address problems through the political process — instead of
    blaming outside scapegoats. Young people who can disagree openly with
    their leaders are less likely to adopt violent ideologies. And nations
    that commit to freedom for their people will not support extremists —
    they will join in defeating them. For all these reasons, the United
    States is committed to the advance of freedom and democracy as the great
    alternatives to repression and radicalism. And we have a historic
    objective in view. In my Second Inaugural Address, I pledged America to
    the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. Some have said that
    qualifies me as a "dissident president." If standing for liberty in the
    world makes me a dissident, then I'll wear the title with pride.

    America has pursued our freedom agenda in many ways — some vocal and
    visible, others quiet and hidden from view.

    Ending tyranny requires support for the forces of conscience that
    undermine repressive societies from within. The Soviet dissident Andrei
    compared a tyrannical state to a soldier who constantly points a
    gun at his enemy — until his arms finally tire and the prisoner
    escapes. The role of the free world is to put pressure on the arms of
    the world's tyrants — and strengthen the prisoners who are trying to
    speed their collapse.

    So I have met personally with dissidents and democratic activists from
    some of the world's worst dictatorships — including Belarus, Burma,
    Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. At this conference, I look
    forward to meeting other dissidents, including some from Iran and Syria.
    One of these dissidents is Mamoun Homsi. In 2001, this man was an
    independent member of the Syrian parliament who issued a declaration
    asking the government to begin respecting human rights. For this
    entirely peaceful act, he was arrested and sent to jail — where he
    spent several years beside other innocent advocates of a free Syria.

    Another dissident I will meet with here is Rebiyah Kadeer of China,
    whose sons have been jailed in what we believe is an act of retaliation
    for her human rights activities. The talent of men and women like
    Rebiyah is the greatest resource of their nations — far more valuable
    than the weapons of their army or oil under the ground. So America calls
    on every nation that stifles dissent to end its repression, trust its
    people, and grant its citizens the freedom they deserve.

    There are many other dissidents who could not join us — because they
    are being unjustly imprisoned or held under house arrest. I look forward
    to the day when conferences like this one include Alexander Kozulin of
    Belarus — Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma — Oscar Elias Biscet of Cuba —
    Father Nguyen Van Ly of Vietnam — and Ayman Nour of Egypt. The daughter
    of one of these political prisoners is in this room. And to all their
    families: I thank you for your courage. I pray for your comfort and
    strength. And I call for the immediate and unconditional release of your
    loved ones.

    In the eyes of America, the democratic dissidents of today are the
    democratic leaders of tomorrow. So we are taking new steps to strengthen
    our support for them. We recently created a Human Rights Defenders Fund,
    which provides grants for the legal defense and medical expenses of
    activists arrested or beaten by repressive governments. I strongly
    support the Prague Document that your conference plans to issue, which
    states that "the protection of human rights is critical to international
    peace and security." And in keeping with the goals of that declaration,
    I have asked Secretary Rice to send a directive to every U.S. ambassador
    in an un-free nation: Seek out and meet with activists for democracy and
    human rights.

    People living in tyranny need to know they are not forgotten. North
    Koreans live in a closed society where dissent is brutally suppressed,
    and they are cut off from their brothers and sisters to the south. The
    Iranians are a great people who deserve to chart their own future — but
    they are denied their liberty by a handful of extremists whose pursuit
    of nuclear weapons prevents their country from taking its rightful place
    in the community of nations.

    The Cubans are desperate for freedom — and as that nation enters a
    period of transition, we must insist on free elections, free speech, and
    free assembly. And in Sudan, freedom is denied and basic human rights
    are violated by a government that pursues genocide against its own
    citizens. My message to all those who suffer under tyranny is this: We
    will never excuse your oppressors, and we will always stand for your

    Freedom is also under assault in countries that had shown some progress.
    In Venezuela, elected leaders have resorted to a shallow populism to
    dismantle democratic institutions and tighten their grip on power. The
    government of Uzbekistan continues to silence independent voices by
    jailing human rights activists. And Vietnam recently arrested and
    imprisoned a number of peaceful religious and political activists.

    These developments are discouraging, but there are more reasons for
    optimism. At the start of the 1980s, there were only 45 democracies on
    Earth. There are now more than 120 democracies — and more people now
    live in freedom than ever before. And it is the responsibility of those
    who enjoy the blessings of liberty to help those who are struggling to
    establish free societies. So the United States has nearly doubled
    funding for democracy projects. We are working with our partners in the
    G-8 to promote the rise of a vibrant civil society in the Middle East
    through initiatives like the Forum for the Future.

    We are cooperating side-by-side with the new democracies in Ukraine,
    Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. We congratulate the people of Yemen on their
    landmark presidential election, and the people of Kuwait on elections in
    which women were able to vote and run for office for the first time. And
    we stand firmly behind the people of Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq as
    they defend their democratic gains against extremist enemies. The people
    of these nations are making great sacrifices for liberty. They deserve
    the admiration of the free world — and they deserve our unwavering

    The United States is also using our influence to urge valued partners
    like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan to move toward freedom. These
    nations have taken brave stands and strong action to confront
    extremists, along with some steps to expand liberty and transparency.
    Yet they have a great distance still to travel. The United States will
    continue to press nations like these to open up their political systems,
    and give a greater voice to their people. Inevitably, this creates
    tension. But our relationships with these countries are broad enough and
    deep enough to bear it. As our relationships with South Korea and Taiwan
    during the Cold War prove, America can maintain a friendship and push a
    nation toward democracy at the same time.

    We are also applying that lesson to our relationships with Russia and
    China. The United States has strong working relationships with these
    countries. Our friendship with them is complex. In the areas where we
    share mutual interests, we work together. In other areas, we have strong
    disagreements. For example, China's leaders believe that they can
    continue to open the nation's economy without also opening its political
    system. In Russia, reforms that once promised to empower citizens have
    been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development.
    Part of a good relationship is the ability to talk openly about our
    disagreements. So the United States will continue to build our
    relationships with these countries — and we will do it without
    abandoning our principles or our values.

    We appreciate that free societies take shape at different speeds in
    different places. One virtue of democracy is that it reflects local
    history and traditions. Yet there are fundamental elements that all
    democracies share — freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly —
    rule of law enforced by independent courts — private property rights —
    and political parties that compete in free and fair elections. These
    rights and institutions are the foundation of human dignity, and as
    countries find their own path to freedom, they will find a loyal partner
    in the United States.

    Extending the reach of freedom is a mission that unites democracies
    around the world. And some of the greatest contributions are coming from
    nations with the freshest memories of tyranny. I appreciate the Czech
    Republic's support
    for human rights projects in Belarus, Burma, and
    Cuba. I thank Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia,
    Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Croatia for contributing to the new
    United Nations Democracy Fund. And I am grateful for the commitment many
    new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe are making to Afghanistan
    and Iraq. The Afghan and Iraqi people look to you as a model of liberty
    — and they will remember that you stood with them when they needed it

    In all these ways, the freedom agenda is making a difference. The work
    has been difficult, and that will not change. There will be triumphs and
    failures, progress and setbacks. Ending tyranny cannot be achieved
    overnight. And of course, this objective has its critics.

    Some say that ending tyranny means "imposing our values" on people who
    do not share them — or live in parts of the world where freedom cannot
    take root. That is refuted by the fact that every time people are given
    a choice, they choose freedom. We saw that when the people of Latin
    America turned dictatorships into democracies — and the people of South
    Africa replaced apartheid with a free society — and the people of
    Indonesia ended their long authoritarian rule. We saw it when Ukrainians
    in orange scarves demanded that their ballots be counted.

    And we saw it when millions of Afghans and Iraqis defied the terrorists
    to elect free governments. At a polling station in Baghdad, an Iraqi man
    with one leg told a reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to."
    Was democracy imposed on that man? Was freedom a value he did not share?
    The truth is that the only ones who have to impose their values are the
    tyrants. That is why the communists crushed the Prague Spring — and
    threw an innocent playwright in jail — and trembled at the sight of a
    Polish Pope. History shows that ultimately, freedom conquers fear. And
    given the chance, freedom will conquer fear in every nation on earth.

    Another objection is that ending tyranny will unleash chaos. Critics
    point to the violence in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Lebanon as evidence
    that freedom leaves people less safe. But look at who is causing that
    violence. It is the terrorists. And it is no coincidence that they are
    targeting young democracies in the Middle East. They know that the
    success of free societies there is a mortal threat to their ambitions —
    and to their very survival. The fact that our enemies are fighting back
    is not a reason to doubt democracy. It is evidence that they recognize
    democracy's power. It is evidence that we are at war. And it is evidence
    that free nations must do what it takes to prevail.

    Still, some argue that a safer goal would be stability — especially in
    the Middle East. The problem is that pursuing stability at the expense
    of liberty does not lead to peace — it leads to September the 11th,
    2001. The policy of tolerating tyranny is a moral and strategic failure.
    And it is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

    Others fear that democracy will bring dangerous forces to power, such as
    Hamas in the Palestinian Territories. Elections will not always turn out
    the way we hope. Yet democracy consists of more than a single trip to
    the ballot box. Democracy requires meaningful opposition parties, a
    vibrant civil society, and a government that enforces the law and
    responds to the needs of its people. Elections can accelerate the
    creation of such institutions. In a democracy, people will not vote for
    a life of perpetual violence. To stay in power, elected officials must
    listen to their people and pursue their desire for peace — or the
    voters will replace them through free elections with leaders who do.

    Finally, there is the contention that ending tyranny is unrealistic.
    Some argue that extending democracy around the world is simply too
    difficult to be achieved. That is nothing new. At every stage of the
    Cold War, there were those who argued that the Berlin Wall was permanent
    — and that people behind the Iron Curtain would never overcome their

    The lesson is that freedom will always have skeptics. But that is not
    the whole story. There are also people like you, and the loved ones you
    represent — men and women with the courage to risk everything for your
    ideals. In his first address as President, Vaclav Havel proclaimed,
    "People, your government has returned to you!" He was echoing the first
    speech of President Tomas Masaryk — who was in turn quoting the 17th
    century Czech teacher Comenius. His message was that freedom is timeless.

    It does not belong to one government or one generation. Freedom is the
    dream and the right of every person in every nation in every age. The
    United States of America believes deeply in that message. It was the
    inspiration for our founding, when we declared that all men are created
    equal. It was the conviction that led us to help liberate this
    continent, and stand with the captive nations through their long
    struggle. It is the truth that guides our Nation to oppose terror and
    tyranny in the world today. And it is the reason I have such great
    confidence in the men and women in this room.

    I leave Prague with certainty that the cause of freedom is not tired —
    and that its future is in the best of hands. With unbreakable faith in
    the power of liberty, you will inspire your people — you will lead your
    nations — and you will change the world. Thank you, and God bless you all.


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