President Bush Urges Cubans to Work for Democratic Reforms, Promises U.S. Support

President George W. Bush urged the people of Cuba to work for democratic change, and warned that the U.S. government will remember those in the present Cuban regime who obstruct efforts to make the island a democratic nation.

"We will support you in your effort to build a transitional government in Cuba committed to democracy, and we will take note of those, in the current Cuban regime, who obstruct your desire for a free Cuba," Bush said Thursday in statement issued at the White House after Bush left for a vacation in Texas.

He said the United States was actively monitoring the situation in Cuba.

CountryWatch: Cuba

His secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said on a cable news network that a transition in one way or another "appears to be under way" in Cuba.

Cuban President Fidel Castro transferred temporary control of the country Monday to his brother, Raul, to act while the president recovers from surgery for intestinal bleeding. Raul Castro, at 75 years old five years younger than his brother, has not appeared in public since the announcement.

The elder Castro also has not been seen, although his inner circle issued a statement purportedly from the leader late Tuesday that said he was in good spirits and beginning his recovery.

"At this time of uncertainty in Cuba, one thing is clear: the United States is absolutely committed to supporting the Cuban people's aspirations for democracy and freedom," Bush said. He urged all democratic nations to unite in support of the right of the Cuban people to define a democratic future for their country.

Should a permanent transition occur in the Cuban government, Bush said the United States will provide humanitarian aid as needed to help the Cuban people.

"It has long been the hope of the United States to have a free, independent and democratic Cuba as a close friend and neighbor," Bush said. "In achieving this, the Cuban people can count on the full and unconditional support of the United States."

Rice said the U.S. goal is a new Cuba in which the people are able to choose who governs them.

"The time will come when there is going to be a free Cuba," Rice said. "The time will come when we are no longer talking about the only state in the entire Western Hemisphere in which you don't have an elected leader."