WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Wednesday marked Hispanic heritage month by calling on Cuba to release political prisoners and showcasing a prominent Cuban musician.
At a Rose Garden event, Bush pulled Yamile Llanes Labrada on stage and called for Cuba to release her husband Luis Garcia Paneque. Garcia was arrested in 2003 as part of a group of activists imprisoned for non-violent dissident activities, the White House said.
Bush said Garcia, a plastic surgeon, was ill. “One of the messages I have for the Cuban leaders: free this man and free other political prisoners. He’s not a threat to you,” Bush said.
The remarks added fuel to U.S.-Cuban tensions. Bush angered Cuba last month at the United Nations General Assembly when he referred to ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro as a “cruel dictator.”
Cuban bassist and bandleader Israel “Cachao” Lopez, who made mambo music popular in the United States, performed at the outdoor event. Lopez first played at the White House in 1948 for President Harry Truman.