Cuban Communists Concerned About Bush Win

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - Russian president Vladimir Putin took a few moments during his visit to Cuba to congratulate President-elect George W. Bush on Thursday, but no words of congratulation have come from Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Putin wished Bush "success in this important and responsible post," and said he looked forward to "an intensive and constructive dialogue with you and your administration."

After saying that, Putin joined Castro in signing a declaration that criticized U.S. sanctions against Cuba. The declaration also stressed the need to oppose what Cuba and Russia see as U.S. efforts to dominate the world, and - in a reference to the NATO air war in Yugoslavia - the declaration warned of the "fruitlessness" of "humanitarian interventions."

After meeting with Castro, Putin told reporters, "We decided we will build a relationship between our countries based upon the warm feelings and high-level relations that already exist." Putin is the first Russian leader to visit Cuba since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

President-elect Bush has said he envisions no change in America's hard-line policy toward Cuba unless the communist nation holds free elections and frees political prisoners.

Although Cuban Leader Fidel Castro hasn't commented officially on George W. Bush's presidential win, one Cuban communist group is expressing concern about the influence that Miami's Cuban exile group might have on the incoming Bush administration.

In its newspaper, the Cuban Union of Young Communists asked, "How much power will he [Bush] give the mafia in Miami? What will happen to foreign policy?" The article in Juventud Rebelde was titled "Gore Surrendered," and it was accompanied by a cartoon showing a sad-looking Al Gore holding up a white flag.

In recent interviews, Castro said he wouldn't expect any great changes in American policy from either Bush or Gore, but he said he did consider Gore was the lesser of two evils. Cuba has been under a U.S. trade embargo for nearly 40 years.

The foreign policy group Inter-American Dialogue made a recommendation in Washington on Thursday that the United States should reject its "uncompromising approach" to Cuba and push for an eventual democratic transition and an end to "repression" in Cuba.

"It is time for the United States to shift to a policy of engagement to press the Cuban government to end its repressive practices, restore the rule of law and stop human rights abuses, even if, realistically, dramatic improvements in these areas are unlikely," the group's recommendation said.

The group also suggested a "redesign" of U.S. policy toward Cuba to increase the prospect that once Castro leaves office, "Cuba will have a peaceful and successful transition toward democratic politics and market-driven economics."

Signing the group's recommendation were former President Jimmy Carter and former Argentinian President Raul Alfonsin, former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, former Nicaraguan President Violetta Chamorro, former Panamanian President Nicolas Ardito Barletta, former Ecuadorian President Osvaldo Hurtado and former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada.