Cuba’s Raul Castro dismisses harsher US tone under Trump

Cuba’s Raul Castro dismisses harsher US tone under Trump

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Raul Castro - Cuban President

Cuban president Raul Castro has denounced US president Donald Trump’s tougher line on relations with Havana, calling it a setback but promising to continue working to normalise ties between the former Cold War rivals.

Mr Castro’s comments to Cuba’s National Assembly were his first on Mr Trump’s June announcement of a partial rollback of the Cuba-US detente achieved by then-president Barack Obama. “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.

He also rejected any “lessons” on human rights from the US, saying his country “has a lot to be proud about” on the issue. Surrounded by Cuban-American exiles and Cuban dissidents in Miami, Mr Trump announced last month 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. Mr Trump’s policy retained elements of Mr Obama’s reforms but tightened restrictions on travel and employed harsh rhetoric on human rights.

On Friday in Washington, the Trump administration said it was suspending for another six months a provision of the US embargo on Cuba. The State Department said it told Congress that it will keep suspending a provision of the Helms-Burton Act that deals with property seized from Americans. The provision lets Americans use US courts to sue non-American companies that operate and deal with property confiscated after Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Speaking to the National Assembly, Mr Castro called the Trump administration’s policies a “setback,” though he reiterated his government’s position that it would work to normalise relations with Washington. Earlier in the legislative session, economy minister Ricardo Cabrisas announced that Cuba’s economy is growing again after a dip last year.

Mr Cabrisas said the economy grew around 1% in the first half of 2017. That puts GDP growth on track to hit 2% for the year. The government said the economy shrank last year by 1% amid falling support from troubled Venezuela. That was the first decrease reported in two decades.

Mr Cabrisas said that instability in the supply of Venezuelan oil weighs on the country but tourism, construction, transportation and communications were growing.

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