HAVANA, Cuba, Monday July 17, 2017 – Cuba’s president has lashed out at US President Donald Trump’s harsher stance on relations with the Caribbean communist country, calling it a setback but promising to continue working to normalize ties on a basis of mutual respect.
President Raúl Castro’s comments to Cuba’s National Assembly on Friday were his first on Trump’s announcement last month of a partial rollback of the Cuba-US detente negotiated by then-President Barack Obama.
State-run Cuban media quoted Castro as saying that Mr Trump was using “old and hostile rhetoric” and had returned to “confrontation that roundly failed over 55 years.
“We reject the manipulation of the topic of human rights against Cuba, which can be proud of much in this area and does not need to receive lessons from the United States nor anyone,” he said.
“Any strategy that seeks to destroy the revolution either through coercion or pressure or through more subtle methods will fail,” Cuba’s president told legislators.
Trump anchored his policy rollback in human rights concerns raised by political opponents of Cuba’s government, many of whom fled to Miami where he announced the changes on 16 June.
Surrounded by Cuban-American exiles and Cuban dissidents, Trump announced that the US would impose new limits on US travellers to the island and ban any payments to the military-linked conglomerate that controls much of the island’s tourism industry.
He said the US would consider lifting those and other restrictions only after Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of other internal changes including freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of assembly and holding free elections.
The US embassy in Havana, re-opened by former President Barack Obama, is nevertheless still operating.
Earlier in the legislative session, Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas announced that Cuba’s economy is growing again after a dip last year.
Cabrisas said the economy grew around 1 percent in the first half of 2017. That puts GDP growth on track to hit 2 percent for the year.