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Remarks at a Cuban Independence Day Ceremony

May 20, 1988

Speaking for myself, and I think speaking for the Vice President also, it gives us great pleasure to join with the Cuban-American community in commemorating the anniversary of a great day in the cause of a free Cuba: the establishment of the Cuban Republic 86 years ago. On that day, May 20th, 1902, the bonds of friendship between the peoples of Cuba and of the United States were reaffirmed. The birth of the Cuban Republic was the culmination of a long and arduous struggle, of revolts, political imprisonment, executions, and exile. Today that passion for a free Cuba remains alive in the hearts of thousands of Cubans everywhere. Cuban-Americans have demonstrated what a free people can accomplish unencumbered by tyranny, and I am confident that the time will come when the spirit of freedom will reign in Cuba itself.

And let me just say, throughout this administration, in good times and bad, I've always known that I could look to the Cuban-American community for support. Your support, your friendship has meant more to me than I can say. Having suffered personally the evils of communism, you have an acute understanding of the danger that Communist expansion poses to this hemisphere. You have stood in support of people everywhere who seek freedom, such as the people of Nicaragua. And let me assure you, as far as this administration is concerned, the freedom of Cuba is a nonnegotiable demand. We will never, ever, negotiate away the dream of every Cuban-American -- a dream that I, too, hold in my heart -- that Cuba will again join the family of free and democratic nations.

Only 90 miles of ocean separate the island of Cuba from the United States, but between our governments is an unbridgeable gulf -- the gulf between freedom and tyranny, between respect for human rights and the rejection of individual freedom. "Within the revolution, everything,'' Castro has proclaimed, "against the revolution, nothing.'' Well, "nothing'' has meant no freedom of speech, assembly, religion, or economic activity. "Nothing'' has increasingly meant a Cuba dependent on subsidies from the Soviet Union to keep its unworkable Communist economy from complete ruin. "Everything'' has meant every conceivable cruelty, abuse, and torture -- to the point that Cuba, today, has the worst human rights record in the entire Western Hemisphere. "Everything'' means the Cuban political prisons where, writes that brave freedom fighter, Armando Valladares, Castro's prisoners "have been held longer than any other political prisoners in Latin America, perhaps in the world. The violence, repression, and beatings are facts of life for them. And today, at this very moment, hundreds of political prisoners are naked, sleeping on the floors of cells whose windows and doors have been sealed. They never see the light of day or, for that matter, artificial light.'' Denied medical care, even visits, their spirit remains unbroken. If they who suffer so greatly will not negotiate away their freedom with Castro, neither will the United States of America.

Jose Marti said: "One revolution is still necessary: the one that will not end with the rule of its leader. It will be the revolution against revolutions, the uprising of all peaceable men who will become soldiers for once so that neither they nor anyone else will ever have to be a soldier again.'' Well, at a time when young Cubans are shipped abroad to advance foreign designs, the rulers in Havana are necessarily worried about the new generation's interest in Marti's message.

In this anniversary of the Cuban Republic, I join a million free Cuban-Americans in reaffirming our solidarity with the long-suffering Cuban people. In the heart of the Americas, the long night of totalitarian rule cannot endure forever. Long live the dawn of freedom! Viva Cuba Libre!

Note: The President spoke at 1:03 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.