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Fidel Castro has just had a right go at Barack Obama

Obama last week became the first US president to visit Castro’s Cuba since the communist leader came to power in 1959.

CUBA CASTRO Fidel Castro, pictured in 2006 Source: AP/Press Association Images

FIDEL CASTRO HAS laid into Barack Obama after the US president’s historic visit to Cuba in a testy letter saying the communist island doesn’t need any “gifts from the empire”.

The 89-year-old leader of the Cuban Revolution, who has reacted tepidly to the communist island’s rapprochement with the United States, scoffed at what he described as Obama’s call to forgive and forget more than half a century of Cold War enmity.

“Listening to the words of the US president could give anyone a heart attack,” Castro, who handed power to his younger brother Raul in 2006, wrote in his first published reaction to the visit.

“My modest suggestion is that he think and not try to theorise about Cuban politics”.

Obama, who met Raul but not Fidel Castro during his three-day visit last week, defied the regime’s warnings not to wade into Cuba’s internal affairs by meeting with anti-Castro dissidents and calling for democracy and greater freedoms.

“Voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections,” he said in a speech carried live on Cuba’s tightly controlled state television.

Castro lashed out at that speech, the symbolically charged centerpiece of the first visit by a US president in 88 years.

“Obama gave a speech in which he used the most syrupy words,” he wrote, recounting the long history of acrimonious relations between Havana and Washington.

Obama US Cuba Barack Obama, pictured at a state dinner given by Cuban president Raul Castro, right, in Havana last week Source: AP/Press Association Images

“Nobody has any illusion that the people of this noble and selfless country will surrender glory and rights and the spiritual wealth that has come through the development of education, science and culture,” said the retired revolutionary, who led Cuba for 47 years.

“I would also warn that we are capable of producing the food and material wealth we need with the labour and the intelligence of our people. We don’t need any gifts from the empire.”

PR problem

Castro remained out of sight during Obama’s visit, which aimed to cement the ongoing normalisation of US-Cuban ties, first announced in December 2014.

The decision to restore relations was spearheaded by the US president and Raul Castro, who has proven to be far more reform-minded than his older brother.

Fidel Castro waited a month and a half to publicly give his blessing to the US-Cuban rapprochement, and then embraced it only reluctantly.

Since announcing their landmark thaw, the United States and Cuba have reopened embassies in each other’s capitals and are slowly normalising ties.

But several thorny issues remain unsettled, including the fate of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which Cuba wants back, and Washington’s more than five-decade-old embargo on the island, which Obama again called on Congress to lift.

Obama’s visit posed an awkward public relations problem for the Castro regime, juxtaposing a charismatic, 54-year-old leader known for the political brand of “change” with the octogenarian brothers who have ruled the island since 1959.

The fact that Obama is black and the Castros are white was not lost on Cubans, many of whom also have African roots, and Castro appeared to take particular umbrage both at the US president’s relative youth and his description of both countries as New World nations “built in part by slaves”.

“He doesn’t mention that racial discrimination was erased by the Revolution, that retirement benefits and salaries for all Cubans were decreed before Mr Barack Obama was 10 years old,” he wrote.

Since stepping down, Fidel Castro has spent his time writing reflections which occasionally appear in the communist party press.

His last public appearance was in July 2015.

© – AFP, 2016

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