HAVANA: Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday said that Donald Trump’s hardline stance towards the country marks “a setback” in relations with the United States after ties were gradually restored in 2015.
“The announcements made by the current president… mean a setback in bilateral relations,” Castro said in remarks, broadcast on state television, at the closing of the first session of Cuba’s Parliament.
Castro criticized Trump’s partial rollback of his predecessor Barack Obama’s rapprochement with the communist island in comments made less than a week before the second anniversary of Havana embassy’s reopening in Washington on July 20.
The remarks came after Trump in June — standing before a crowd of anti-Castro activists in Miami’s Little Havana — announced tightened rules for Americans traveling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing US trade embargo.
The US president framed his measures as a move against a “cruel and brutal” regime, saying progress on bilateral relations would be hinged on concessions related to human rights.
Castro, 86, called the new measures a toughening of the US embargo against the island, imposed since 1962, saying they evoked “an old and hostile rhetoric that characterized the Cold War.”
He also denounced “the manipulation” of Cuba over human rights issues.
“Cuba has much to be proud of, and it does not have to receive lessons from the United States or anyone else,” he said during the session, which international press does not have access to.
“Any strategy that seeks to destroy the revolution, whether through coercion or pressure or through subtle methods, will fail,” he said.
Castro — who will leave the Cuban presidency in February 2018 — reiterated his willingness to continue “respectful dialogue” and negotiate bilateral issues “on the basis of equality” and recognition of “the sovereignty and independence of our country.”
The original Cuban government response to Trump’s declaration was restrained, expressing rejection of the tightened policy but emphasising openness to continuing “respectful” negotiation.