The following is a statement issued by the Communist Party USA National Board on April 30.

While the world’s eyes were focused on Iraq, the same Bush administration that invaded that country in defiance of world and U.S. public opinion used the crisis to escalate its already onerous pressure on Cuba.

Hypocritically proclaiming that its aim is to let the Iraqi people choose their future, the Bush administration – like its predecessors – seems totally incapable of letting the Cuban people choose theirs.

As if the decades of economic blockade, dirty tricks and assassination attempts were not enough, the administration has greatly stepped up its direct interference. This includes the role of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and its current head, James Cason, in channeling untold millions of dollars to an opposition the U.S. has built up over the years. The unprecedented use of Interests Section facilities, and even James Cason’s residence, by these so-called dissident groups is an outrageous provocation.

While virtually refusing to allow legal immigration under the 1995 agreement for 20,000 Cubans to enter the U.S. each year, the Bush administration is doing everything to encourage illegal immigration, including hijackings. Seven hijackings have occurred in the last seven months alone, including the take over of a ferry during which passengers were constantly threatened with being thrown overboard. Perpetrators of such crimes have been welcomed into the U.S.

For many years the Cuban government and people have been remarkably restrained in the face of constant U.S. harassment and interference. This is in sharp contrast to U.S. authorities’ treatment of the five Cubans now wrongfully imprisoned for trying to expose anti-Cuban terrorist groups in Florida. But the recent escalation of illegal U.S. activity, combined with recent administration threats that Iraq is a “good example” for Cuba, have forced Cuba to act for its very survival.

In this context, 75 Cubans were arrested for actively violating Cuban law and three ferry hijackers were executed. With Cuba fighting for its life, these executions were carried out against hijackers who threatened to drown innocent passengers.

Nevertheless, the Communist Party USA, which has condemned the more than 70 executions in the U.S. last year, as well as the more than 150 executions in Texas under Governor George W. Bush, opposes the death penalty, and joins in the call for its universal abolition.

However, those who protest the sentences of the Cuban hijackers should also direct their opposition to the main cause of the present crisis – a U.S. administration that continues an immoral blockade and dirty tricks against Cuba, and has shown it will carry out its threats of pre-emptive military strikes against other countries, including Cuba. The Bush administration’s policies and actions are causing an unprecedented climate of fear among the nations of the world.

Even many who disagree with the Cuban people’s choice of a socialist system believe relations between our two countries should be normalized and the U.S. government’s criminal behavior toward Cuba ended once and for all. Normal diplomatic and commercial relations, observance of international laws and diplomatic norms, including the 1995 immigration agreement, sharing of medical, scientific and other knowledge, and greater people-to-people contacts – these are achievable goals with enormous benefits for the people of both our countries.

We pledge our continued support for the tremendous economic, social, political and cultural achievements of the Cuban people and their government, and our continuing commitment to help build the broadest movement to end the blockade.