January 5, 1984
On behalf of the people of the United States, I would like to extend New Year's greetings to the people of Cuba.
We know you're marking an historic anniversary on your island. Twenty-five years ago, during these early January days, you were celebrating what all of us hoped was the dawn of a new era of freedom. Most Cubans welcomed the prospects for democracy and liberty which the leaders of the Cuban revolution had promised.
Such a free and democratic Cuba would have been warmly welcomed by our own people. We're neighbors in a hemisphere that has been characterized by the quest for human freedom. Government which rests upon consent of the governed is a cardinal principle that enshrines the dignity of every individual. We share many of the same ideals, especially a common longing for a world of peace and justice. We are both proud peoples, proud of what we've achieved through our own efforts.
But tragically, the promises made to you have not been kept. Since 1959 you've been called upon to make one sacrifice after another. And for what? Doing without has not brought you a more abundant life. It has not brought you peace. And most important, it has not won freedom for your people -- freedom to speak your opinions, to travel where and when you wish, to work in independent unions, and to openly proclaim your faith in God and to enjoy all these basic liberties without having to be afraid.
Cuba's economy is incapable of providing you and your families your most elementary needs, despite massive subsidies from abroad. But your leaders tell you, ``Don't complain, don't expect improvement, just be ready for more sacrifice.''
In the meantime, over half a million of your fellow citizens have migrated to the United States, where their talents and their hard work have made a major contribution to our society. We welcomed them, and we're proud of their success. But we have to wonder, what would Cuba's economy be like today if those people had been allowed to use their great talent, drive, and energy to help you create prosperity on your island?
The most important question remains: Where is Cuba heading? If it were heading toward greater welfare and freedom for your people, that would be wonderful. But we know prisoners of conscience convicted for their political activities have been languishing in Cuban prisons, deprived of all freedom, for nearly a quarter of a century. Never in the proud history of your country have so many been imprisoned for so long for so-called crimes of political dissent as during these last 25 years. Others convicted of political crimes this past year can expect to be in prison well into the 21st century if the present system in Cuba survives that long.
You may not be aware of some of these things I've just told you or will tell you in this brief message. You may also be unaware of many other things you have the right to know. That's because you are systematically denied access to facts and opinions which do not agree with your government's official view. But why are your leaders so unwilling to let you hear what others think and say? If the power of truth is on their side, why should they need to censor anyone's views? Think about that.
Yet, while they supervise every word you hear, every picture you see, your authorities have free access to our news services in the United States and around the world. We don't believe in censorship. So, to correct this injustice, the Congress of the United States has authorized the startup soon of a new radio service on the Voice of America named for your great Cuban patriot, Jose Marti.
The objective of the Radio Marti program will be simple and straightforward: Tell the truth about Cuba to the Cuban people. We want you to know what you haven't been told, for example, about the situation in Grenada. When Grenada's Prime Minister Bishop was killed, the Governor General, as well as the majority of the English-speaking Caribbean, asked for our assistance in protecting them. Why didn't they ask for Cuba's assistance? Well, the sad truth is, they wanted to be protected from the Cuban Government.
The United States and other Caribbean forces were welcomed by Grenadians as liberators. The rest of the world has seen the evidence of the popular outpouring of support for our action. Cuban lives could have been saved if your government had respected the will of the Grenadian people and not ordered your soldiers to fight to the death. Fortunately, the great majority of your personnel in Grenada did not obey those orders.
One of your government officials said, in September 1982, that 120,000 Cubans have carried out international missions through the revolutionary armed forces alone. They have been sent to countries in four continents. You're never told how many of them are killed, how many families lose loved ones for a cause they have no right to resist. What mission or vital interest does Cuba have which can possibly justify this loss of life in such faraway lands?
These are not pleasant questions, but they deserve answers. I hope you'll contemplate them with care. At the beginning of this new year, let us pray that the future will be kinder than the past. And may that better future begin soon for all of you in Cuba.
Feliz Ano Nuevo y que Dios los bendiga. [Happy New Year and God bless you.]
Note: The President recorded the address at approximately 5 p.m. at the White House for later broadcast on the Voice of America.