Communist rule of Cuba should end when ailing leader Fidel Castro dies, President Bush said as he prepared for a Latin American tour seen as aiming to counter a regional shift to the left.
Bush’s trip, starting in Brazil on Thursday, is widely viewed as offering a counterpoint to the populist appeal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose nationalization plans he criticized.
“I strongly believe that government-run industry is inefficient and will lead to more poverty,” Bush told newspaper reporters on Tuesday in remarks released on Wednesday.
“If the state tries to run the economy, it will enhance poverty and reduce opportunity.”
Bush also made clear he is keeping an eye on Cuba and its long-time leader.
Castro, 80, was forced to temporarily hand power to his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, last July after stomach surgery. He has not appeared in public since his surgery, aside from video recordings and a live radio broadcast to Venezuela last week.
Castro’s fate will be decided “by the Almighty,” Bush said.
“I don’t know how long he’s going to live but nevertheless I do believe that the system of government that he’s imposed upon the people ought not to live if that’s what the people decide.”
Bush took a dim view of the possibility of Raul Castro taking over permanently.
“What I hope happens is that we together insist that transition doesn’t mean transition from one figure to another, but transition means from one type of government to a different type of government, based upon the will of the people,” he said.
Your lips to God’s ears, Mr. President.