WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (KUNA) -- The leading U.S. presidential candidates on
Tuesday issued statements concerning the resignation of Cuban President Fidel
Castro, with Democrat Barack Obama saying the move marked the end of "a dark
era" in the history of Cuba, and Republican John McCain saying the resignation
"was nearly a half century overdue."
Castro, a communist, came to power in 1959 after an armed revolution in
Cuba that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgenico Batista.
In a written statement released on Tuesday, Illinois Senator Obama said the
resignation of Castro was "an essential first step, but it is sadly
insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba. Cuba's future should be determined
by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime."
Castro's younger brother, Raul, has been in charge of most of the Cuban
government since Castro fell ill a year and a half ago, and Raul was expected
to formally assume the reins of power.
"The prompt release of all prisoners of conscience wrongly jailed for
standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would
mark an important break with the past," Obama said. "It is time for these
heroes to be released."
If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic
change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize
relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades, he said, adding,
"The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring Americans
Arizona Senator McCain said Castro oversaw "an apparatus of repression that
denied liberty to the people who suffered under his dictatorship."
Freedom for the Cuban people is not yet at hand, and the Castro brothers
intend to maintain their grip on power, he added. "That is why we must press
the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to
legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media, and to schedule
internationally monitored elections," McCain said.
"Cuba's transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when, not
if," McCain said. "With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have
an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they
will truly be free. America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom
in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough." (end)
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