What happened
President Bush on Wednesday renewed calls on the Cuban government to grant its people more freedom, and promised economic help in exchange for reform. Bush also called on the Cuban people to step up peaceful pressure during the “dying gasps” of the ailing Fidel Castro’s “failed regime.” Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Bush’s policy was “equivalent to the re-conquest of Cuba by force.”

What the commentators said
The Cuban people are “caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Marifeli Perez-Stable in The Miami Herald (free registration). They can be “faithful to Fidel Castro's legacy, which carries a continued disregard for the economic well-being of ordinary Cubans,” or they can try “truly burying Castro by embracing an economic restructuring that may open a Pandora's box.” But one thing is for sure—ordinary Cubans are increasingly “outraged” at the “galloping corruption” and “time-warped doublespeak” that makes their daily lives “hell.”

By maintaining the status quo and keeping Havana isolated, the Bush administration is “actually forestalling democratization,” said Vicki Huddleston, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, in The Washington Post (free registration). The only way to speed up democratization is to “start a dialogue with both the people of Cuba and their government.” It is “unrealistic to expect Cubans to magically transform their authoritarian government into a democracy on their own.”

When is Bush going to realize that “bluster” does nobody any good? said the Baltimore Sunin an editorial. His proposal for a “Freedom Fund for Cuba” was “appealing,” but it hinges on a democratic transition, and Fidel has merely handed power to his younger brother. A new administration should try something different—isolating Cuba for more than 40 years “has done little to spur a revolt.”