The Administration's View

Thursday, May 10, 2012
From a speech this week by Asst. Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson:

Let me add a point about Cuba. We have a positive policy, one that seeks to support Cubans’ rights to freely determine their own future. The Administration has done a great deal to ease travel restrictions and increase the flow of information for ordinary Cubans. And we will be the first to cheer as a democratically chosen government in Cuba resumes its full participation in the inter-American system. But you all know that we aren’t there yet. This region has a long consensus that participation hinges on adherence to democratic norms and principles. Personally, I found it disappointing at times that some countries whose democratic transitions have been so central to their own national success, and who are stalwart in their support for rights and democracy on the global stage, wavered in this case.

We have a general concern about an erosion of full respect for freedom of expression in this hemisphere. During the remarkable transitions from dictatorship to democracy which took place over the last 40 years, our region’s free press has played essential roles. From La Prensa’s principled defiance of abuses from the right and the left in Nicaragua to the courageous journalists of El Espectador who exposed links between narcotics traffickers and politicians in Colombia, to today’s valiant bloggers and journalists in Mexico, journalists in this region have been protagonists of democracy. We’ve also developed institutions unique in the world to protect and defend freedom of expression.

Given this distinguished record, it is particularly painful to see steps backward, whether by governments or nongovernmental actors. Dissent is not criminal behavior, opposition to the government is not criminal behavior, and free speech is not criminal behavior. To the contrary, free speech is one of the pillars of our democracies. There is an organic link between openness in the public square and electoral process and the durability and sustainability of economic prosperity. Standing up for and working hard for a level playing field in that public square, in the judicial arena, and in political processes is something that directly benefits the vast majority of U.S. and other companies that are good corporate citizens and play by the rules. And democratic principles remain critically relevant to the hemisphere, its challenges, and future success.