HAVANA – The Cuban government said Wednesday that President Bush's hard-line statements and the State Department's "arbitrary" decision to keep the Caribbean nation on its terrorism list are aimed at appeasing Cuban-Americans and scaring U.S. citizens.
In its first formal response to Bush's Cuba policy speeches Monday and the release of the terrorism list Tuesday, Cuba said Washington was undertaking "more expenditures, more measures, more technologies to sow poison in our country."
"Just a few months ago, the American people were victim of a brutal crime of this character," read a front-page editorial published in the Communist Party daily Granma, referring to attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In the wake of Sept. 11, the "repeated and arbitrary inclusion of Cuba on the list" is designed to "induce terror and antipathy in American citizens toward our country," the editorial said.
Cuba was among seven countries on the list, along with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, North Korea and Syria. At least 20 Basque militants and several other terror suspects are given haven in Cuba, said the State Department report.
Cuba says Washington keeps its country on the list to justify continued support for more than four decades of U.S. restrictions on trade and travel to the island nation.
Cuban President Fidel Castro insists he opposes terrorism of all kinds, and officials here made a point of ensuring they signed all 12 United Nations counter-terror conventions after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The decision to keep Cuba on the list was in keeping with Bush's hard-line policies toward the communist country.
Bush said in Washington and Miami on Monday that he won't heed calls to lift trade sanctions against Cuba unless Castro releases political prisoners, conducts independently monitored elections and accepts a list of tough U.S. conditions for a "new government that is fully democratic."
Bush's declarations came just a few days after former President Jimmy Carter wrapped up a five-day visit here calling for an end to American trade and other sanctions.
The Communist Party editorial said that Bush's speeches on Cuba this week "provoke repugnance and disgust in our heroic people, more united and willing than ever to fight."
"The arguments, deceits, tricks, demagoguery, lies and libels of Mr. Bush will be crushed one by one," the editorial said. "It doesn't matter how many days this tough battle of our long struggle lasts. We are wrapped up in a great battle of ideas, in a struggle without precedent between the truth and lies, ignorance and political and historical knowledge.
"There does not exist nor could there exist a force in the world that could make us stop, abandon or betray our noble cause! And with nothing forcing us from our path, we will continue to be steadfast friends and allies of the people of the United States and any other people in the world in their fight against terrorism."