Fidel wrote that Obama's intentions were correct, but that Cuba will never go back on its revolution
Fidel Castro has responded to Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba with a lengthy and scornful letter that recounts the history of US aggression against Cuba and reasserts its independence with a warning to the American leader that “we don’t need the empire to give us any presents”.
The 1,500-word letter published in state media, titled “Brother Obama”, was Castro’s first response to the president’s three-day visit last week, in which the American president said he had come to bury the two countries’ history of cold war hostility.
Speaking in Havana, Obama said it was time for the two countries to look forward “as friends and as neighbours and as family, together”.
But in his letter Castro dismisses Obama’s comments as “honey-coated” and said that Cubans “ran the risk of having a heart attack on hearing these words from the president of the United States”.
The former president writes that Obama is asking them to forget “a ruthless blockade that has now lasted for almost 60 years,” as well over half a century of US aggression against Cuba including the decades-long trade embargo against the island; the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack and the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner by anti-Castro exiles which killed 73 people.
Obama did not meet – or mention – the 89-year-old former ruler during his three-day trip but met several times with his 84-year-old brother Raúl Castro, the current Cuban president.
Obama’s visit was intended to build irreversible momentum behind his opening with Cuba and to convince the Cuban people and the Cuban government that a half century of US attempts to overthrow the communist government had ended, allowing Cuba to reform its economy and political system more quickly.
Castro, who led Cuba for decades before handing power to his brother in 2008, was legendary for his hours-long, all-encompassing speeches. His biting letter reflects that style, presenting a sharp contrast with Obama’s tightly focused and forward-looking speech in Havana last week.
The letter opens with descriptions of environmental abuse under the Spaniards and reviews the historical roles of Cuban independence heroes José Martí, Antonio Maceo and Máximo Gómez.
Castro then goes over crucial sections of Obama’s speech line by line, engaging in an ex post facto dialogue with the American president with pointed critiques of perceived slights and insults, including Obama’s failure to give credit to indigenous Cubans and Castro’s prohibition of racial segregation after coming to power in 1959.
He also blasts Obama for ignoring the extermination of native peoples in both the US and Cuba, not recognizing Cuba’s gains in health and education, and not coming clean on the US role in helping apartheid South Africa obtain nuclear weapons.
“My humble suggestion is that he reflects [on the US role in South Africa and Cuba’s in Angola] and not now try to elaborate theories about Cuban politics,” Castro says.
Castro does, however, acknowledge Obama’s good intentions. “In a certain way I wish to say that Obama’s conduct was correct. His humble origins and natural intelligence were evident,” he writes.
In the letter Castro also takes aim at the tourism industry in Cuba, which has grown further since Obama’s rapprochement with Raúl Castro in December 2014. He says it was dominated by large foreign corporations which took for granted billion-dollar profits.
The focus on US-Cuba business ties appears to have particularly rankled with Castro, who nationalised US companies after coming to power in 1959 and establishing the communist system into which his brother is now introducing gradual market-based reforms.
The Obama administration says re-establishing economic ties with the US will be a boon for Cuba, whose centrally planned economy has struggled to escape from overdependence on imports and a chronic shortage of hard currency.
In response Castro writes: “No one should be under the illusion that the people of this noble and selfless country will renounce its glory and its rights, and the spiritual wealth that is has gained with the development of education, science and culture.”
The former president ends his letter with a sort of “thanks but no thanks” to Obama’s offer of assistance.
“We are capable of producing the food and material wealth that we need with the work and intelligence of our people,” he writes.
Source: The Guardian