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Thursday, June 12, 2008


Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez
First Anniversary of the Victims of Communism Memorial
Washington, D.C.

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SECRETARY GUTIERREZ: Thank you very much. That was a very kind introduction.

It’s an honor to be here with Congresswoman Eshoo and other friends and members of Congress, and it is a great personal privilege to be here for the first anniversary of the Victims of Communism Memorial. I think it’s very appropriate that we are honoring today Congressmen Lantos. He had a passion for freedom and a commitment to liberty that was forged through his personal experience with oppression and with tyranny.

Many great men and women have lived under tyranny. Many have fought back, stood for what is right and have made the cause of freedom and human dignity their own. Tom Lantos was one of those people.

It is his struggle and the struggle of millions who did not make it through that we honor today.

You know, it is said that the greatest triumph of our generation is the fall of the Berlin Wall, defeating communism and ushering in a new era of freedom.

Our world has changed remarkably from a time when Ronald Reagan called communism “a sad bizarre chapter in human history” and predicted that Marxism-Leninism would be left on “the ash heap of history.”

We’ve made great strides toward freedom, but the light of liberty still does not shine in every corner of the earth.

My native country, Cuba, remains one of the last vestiges of the Cold War: a forgotten island where communism’s iron grip has not loosened in over fifty years.

The communist dictatorship in Cuba deserves a place among the world’s most brutal, oppressive regimes.

I cannot help but think of the Cuban political prisoners who have died in inhuman conditions in Cuban jails. I can’t help but mourn the number of Cubans who have been executed for simply seeing through the hypocrisy and the false promises of communism.

And not all of the victims of Cuban communism come from firing squads and prisons.

Like in East Berlin, when people risked their lives to jump the wall to freedom, thousands have perished in the Florida Straits in rafts and inner tubes and overcrowded homemade vessels.

As President Bush said in his second inaugural address, the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty we will stand with you.

America has stood proudly on the side of freedom around the world.

We have opposed totalitarianism in Europe, and now freedom’s light shines in bright places like the Czech Republic, like Poland, and like Hungary.

We stood against tyranny in the Middle East freeing millions from Saddam Hussein’s cruel dictatorship and millions more from Afghanistan’s oppressive Taliban, and we will continue to stand against the atrocities in Burma, in Sudan and Zimbabwe, and in North Korea, until the killing stops and the people have the freedom and the dignity they deserve.

We will not ignore oppression or excuse oppressors.

Today we stand in solidarity with the people of Cuba and those political prisoners who are shackled in jail cells because they dare speak out in favor of freedom, in favor of liberty, and in favor of democracy.

While many are outraged at the plight of the oppressed around the world, some have forgotten the plight of those ninety miles from our shores.

The United States is and has always been a friend of the Cuban people. The American people are the largest providers of Cuba’s food and medicine. U.S. remittances are the largest source of direct support to the Cuban people, and we will support real change in Cuba by continuing to stand with the Cuban people.

President Bush recently said, and I think about this often, Cuba’s regime no doubt has other horrors still unknown to the rest of the world, and when revealed they will shock the conscience of humanity and will shame the regime’s defenders and all those democracies that remain silent. As Armando Vallidares said, it will be a time when mankind will feel the revulsion when the crimes of Stalin were brought to light. That time is coming soon.

We remember those who have died under Castro’s watch and those who remain oppressed. We assure their families and their loved ones that we will never forget, and it is Tom Lantos’s lasting legacy that we will never forget those who have been oppressed. Thank you.