State Department launches Cuba regime change initiative

This report from the July 31 Weekly News Update on the Americas on changes in top State Department positions on Latin America indicates that the White House is preparing to escalate its regime change offensive against Cuba:

On July 29 US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Roger Noriega announced he was going into the private sector as of September. His resignation after two years in the post came as Congress members and analysts called for stronger US leadership for Latin America, which is increasingly dominated by left and center-left governments. Noriega was a staffer for far-right ex-senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and helped draft the “Helms-Burton Act, which toughened the embargo on Cuba. Analysts, who tended to dismiss Noriega as an “ideologue,” expect him to be replaced by Thomas Shannon, head of Latin American affairs at the National Security Council and a career diplomat trusted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack denied that Noriega’s resignation is linked to the July 28 nomination of Republican congressional staffer Caleb McCarry to be “transition coordinator” for Cuba. The post, called for by a May 2004 report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, headed by then-secretary of state Colin Powell, is intended to facilitate the “final transition to a democratic government” with a $59 million budget. “I’m sure he’ll get a juicy salary in his new post,” Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque commented, “but I can assure them that McCarry is going to retire without setting foot in Cuba.” (La Jornada, Mexico, July 30 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; Miami Herald, July 29, 30)

As we recently noted, Noriega was himself the replacement for Otto Reich, who was a real bastard and is still making plenty of trouble in the private sector.