Cuba: Obama has not met policy change promises

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – US President Barack Obama has not fulfilled his promises to change US foreign policy and may not be fully in control of the government, Cuba’s foreign minister told the United Nations yesterday.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Bruno Rodriguez said Obama had done little to mend US-Cuba relations and had taken other steps that were at odds with his promises to break with the policies of predecessor George W Bush.

“The most serious and dangerous aspect about this new situation is uncertainty about the real capacity of current authorities in Washington to overcome political and ideological currents that, under the previous administration, threatened the world,” he said.

“The neoconservative forces that took George Bush to the presidency … have very quickly regrouped and still have the reins of power and considerable influence, contrary to the announced change,” Rodriguez said. The Cuban minister pointed to the June 28 military coup in Honduras, saying that while Obama had said ousted President Manuel Zelaya must be returned to office, “the American fascist right, represented by (former Vice President Dick) Cheney, openly supports and sustains the coup.”

Zelaya, bundled into exile by soldiers in the summer coup, secretly returned to Honduras a week ago and is currently sheltering in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. “The world reacted with profound optimism to the change in government in Washington,” Rodriguez said. But he added Obama’s words, including promises to make changes in several US policies, do not “coincide with reality”.

“The detention and torture centre at Guantanamo Naval Base, which usurps part of Cuban territory, has not been shut down. The occupation troops in Iraq have not been withdrawn. The war in Afghanistan is expanding,” he said.

Regarding Cuba, Rodriguez said Obama had taken “positive” steps” by allowing Cuban Americans to travel and send money freely to the communist-ruled island. He added US-initiated talks with Havana on migration and on the possible reinstatement of direct postal service between the long-time foes had been “respectful and fruitful.”

But he said many other issues had not been addressed, above all the 47-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba, which the Cuban government blames for most of its economic problems.

Rodriguez said Obama had acted “contrary to what all the American public opinion polls reflect” when he signed two weeks ago a yearly renewal of the act that imposes the embargo.

“The crucial thing is that the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba remains intact,” he said.

The embargo was imposed in 1962 to undermine the Cuban government that turned to communism after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro, 83, ceded the Cuban presidency last year to his younger brother Raul Castro, 78, citing health grounds.

Rodriguez said the US embargo would never achieve its goal. “Those who try to put an end to the revolution and bend the will of the Cuban people are suffering from delusions,” he said.

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