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Castro Rebuts Trump, Says his Stance a ‘Setback’ in US-Cuba Ties | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet at the UN General Assembly in New York, September 29, 2015. Obama is reportedly planning a historic visit to Cuba in March. KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

Cuban President Raul Castro said Donald Trump’s hardline stance towards the country was a “setback” in relations with the United States after ties were gradually restored under Barack Obama in 2015.

Castro criticized Trump’s partial rollback of Obama’s rapprochement with the communist island in comments ahead of the second anniversary of Havana embassy’s reopening in Washington on July 20. 

“The announcements made by the current president… mean a setback in bilateral relations,” Castro said Friday in remarks broadcast on state television at the closing of the first session of Cuba’s parliament.

The remarks came after Trump last month stood before a crowd of anti-Castro activists in Miami’s Little Havana and announced tightened rules for Americans traveling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing US trade embargo.

He framed his measures as a move against a “cruel and brutal” regime, saying progress on bilateral relations would hinge on concessions related to human rights. 

Castro 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.

“Any strategy that seeks to destroy the revolution, whether through coercion or pressure or through subtle methods, will fail.”

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.