Cuban President Raul Castro has said 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 criticised 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 travelling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing US trade embargo.
In his first public riposte to Trump since the latter unveiled his new Cuba policy last month, Castro told the national assembly that any attempt to topple the revolution would fail, as it had under 11 previous US presidents.
“We reject the manipulation of the topic of human rights against Cuba, that can be proud of much in this area, and does not need to receive lessons from the United States nor anyone,” Castro was quoted as saying by state-run media Cubadebate. 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 characterised 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 said Cuba remained open to negotiating matters of bilateral interest with the United States, sticking to the relatively conciliatory tone it has struck of late.
“Cuba and the United States can cooperate and live side by side, respecting their differences,” he said. “But no one should expect that for this, one should have to make concessions inherent to one’s sovereignty and independence.”
Castro said Trump had clearly been ill-informed about Cuba’s history with the United States and Cubans’ patriotism.