- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Top U.S. officials yesterday warned Cuban leader Fidel Castro that Washington would work with renewed "vigor" to bring an end to his communist stranglehold on the island.
The United States would use "new creativity and vigor to hasten the inevitable democratic transition on the island," said Roger Noriega, President Bush's pick to be assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Washington is incensed by Mr. Castro's roundup of 75 journalists and political dissidents, and the summary trials and executions of three persons found guilty of trying to hijack a ferry boat to reach the United States.
The dissidents, whom Mr. Castro accused of trying to undermine the country's revolution, received jail terms of 12 to 20 years for trying to challenge his rule politically.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell confirmed that Washington, in light of the latest crackdown, was reviewing all of its policies toward Cuba a country he said was an "aberration in the Western Hemisphere."
"Castro continued to do nothing but oppress, suppress his people, suppress opinion. And we're reviewing all of our policies," he told reporters.
Speaking at a two-day Council of the Americas conference at the State Department, Mr. Bush's special envoy to the region, Otto Reich, also blasted Mr. Castro's human rights and economic records.
"No one knows how many people rot in Castro's dungeons," he said, accusing the Cuban president of mismanaging his economy to the point that Cuba was the "only country that has experienced a decline in caloric intake in the last 40 years."
Relations between Cuba and the United States strained for decades despite recent openings in trade took a serious downturn after Mr. Castro's latest political crackdown, which drew a chorus of international condemnation.
Mr. Castro defended his actions in a three-hour televised speech to the nation, accusing the U.S. chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana of inciting the dissidents.
But Washington officials seemed convinced that Mr. Castro's days were numbered.
"This too shall pass," Mr. Reich said.

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