Acting Cuban President Raul Castro told the heads of state and representatives of the 118 countries in the Non-Aligned Movement Friday that only "unity and solidarity" can protect them from the irrational dangers represented by Bush administration policies, CBS News producer Portia Siegelbaum reports. Castro also noted that nearly all of the countries singled out as targets by Washington are present at the gathering in Havana.
Castro hit at the U.S. for "its 47-year long attempt" to overthrow his government, emphasizing the existence of a secret annex in the latest Cuba transition report approved by President Bush, Siegelbaum says.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration proposed Friday that Cubans hold a referendum to decide if they want to live in a democracy or under a dictatorship, a plan one expert called a "Disneyesque fantasy" that the Castro brothers would reject.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez suggested the referendum, but Cuban President Fidel Castro, who is recovering from surgery, has long fiercely resisted any U.S. attempts to interfere with his government.
"I would say to the Cuban regime, 'why not ask the people?'" Gutierrez said at The Miami Herald's Americas Conference. "Why would a real leader be so insecure about giving his people a voice?"
Gutierrez suggested the Cuban people work with the Organization of American States and others to organize a referendum. OAS officials had no immediate comment. Cuba has been excluded from participating in the group since the early 1960s, after Castro took power.
Gutierrez said democracy in Cuba is not a "U.S.-only idea," but one many countries around the world support. He said a referendum would allow Cubans to decide the future of their country.
Gutierrez, who was born in Cuba, cited Chile as an example of a country that once had a military dictatorship and later held a referendum in which people chose democracy. He called today's Chile a "great example" of "what can happen under freedom and democracy."
"They were asked a simple 'yes or no' to dictatorship, very simple, and the people said 'no,'" Gutierrez said.
John Kavulich, a senior policy adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, called the idea of a referendum "Disneyesque" and absurd.
"It is not going to happen. The U.S. government must come to terms with the fact that a succession has already taken place in Cuba, and the transition has already begun," Kavulich said at the conference.
Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother temporarily on July 31. The government has treated the exact illness as a state secret, although Castro has been shown this week in pictures talking to visiting leaders in Cuba for the summit.