US President Donald Trump’s speech on Cuba was a “grotesque spectacle”, but the island’s government will continue working towards better relations with the majority of Americans who back detente, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said yesterday.
Trump announced a partial rollback of the normalisation of relations with Cuba on Friday in Miami, the heartland of Cuban exiles, in a theatre named after the leader of the failed US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of the island in 1961.
“It was a grotesque spectacle straight from the Cold War,” Rodriguez said in Vienna, during a tour of European countries, in a news conference broadcast live in Cuba.
Trump’s speech before an audience that included people Cuba considers terrorists, included dramatic flourishes like a Cuban- American exile playing the US national anthem on his violin.
The US president stopped short of breaking diplomatic relations with Cuba, restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostility and leaves many recent agreements between the two countries intact.
However, it will tighten restrictions on Americans travelling to the Caribbean island, hurting the booming Cuban tourism industry and clamp down on US business dealings with Cuba’s military.
“It is necessary to wait for the US government to announce regulations that implement these measures before opining on their reach and depth,” Rodriguez said.
He added, however, that they would inevitably hit US companies and citizens by restricting their ability to invest in or travel to Cuba, while also hurting the Cuban people.
“It will wreak economic damage not just on Cuba’s state companies but also on the cooperatives and private sector workers,” he said.
Moody’s Investor Service released a report yesterday, saying that the US revision of its Cuban policy was “credit negative” for the island, coming at a time when the country was already suffering liquidity problems due to weakening economic support from its crisis-wracked ally Venezuela.
The Cuban foreign minister said Trump’s hope of separating the people from the military, who were simply “the people in uniform”, was “infantile”.
“On the contrary, these measures reinforce our patriotism, our dignity and our decision to defend national independence by all means,” he said.
Meanwhile, the partial rollback of the detente would fall flat with the majority of Americans, who supported the normalisation of relations with Cuba, and with whom the country would continue working, Rodriguez added.
In response to Trump’s demand to return fugitives sought by the United States, Rodriguez said Cuba considered them fighters for civil liberties.
“These persons will not be returned to the United States,” he said.
Trump will not be able to change Cuban policies, he added.
“We will never negotiate under pressure. It will not be a US presidential directive that will alter the course of our sovereign path,” Rodriguez said.
Trump argued that his predecessor Barack Obama’s easing of restrictions had only served to enrich the Cuban regime, and he added that his own administration would not ignore or glamorise human rights abuses in Cuba.
Rodriguez accused Trump of double standards, by recalling that the president had said during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia that “we
are not here to tell other people how to live”.
“Last Friday he said quite the opposite. Sad!” Rodriguez said.
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