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Fidel Castro Ends Silence, Braces US-Cuba Talks

Fidel Castro Ends Silence, Braces US-Cuba TalksFidel Castro Ends Silence, Braces US-Cuba Talks

Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Monday appeared to lend his support to talks with the United States in his first comments about his longtime adversary since both countries agreed last month to restore diplomatic ties.

But Castro stopped short of an enthusiastic endorsement of the rapprochement, announced on December 17 by his younger brother and Cuba’s current president, Raul Castro, and US President Barack Obama, Reuters said in a report.

“I don’t trust the policy of the United States nor have I had an exchange with them, but this does not mean ... a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts or the dangers of war,” Fidel Castro, 88, said in a statement published on the website of Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper Granma.

The US and Cuba held historic high-level talks last week in Havana that are expected to lead to the re-establishment of diplomatic ties severed by Washington in 1961.

“Any peaceful or negotiated solution to the problems between the United States and the peoples or any people of Latin America that does not imply force or the use of force should be treated in accordance with international norms and principles,” Castro said.

“We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the peoples of the world, among them our political adversaries.”

The letter, addressed to the Federation of University Students on the 70th anniversary of his admission to the University of Havana, was published more than a month after Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced they would seek to restore diplomatic relations after more than five decades.

He took power in a 1959 revolution and spent much of his 49 years in politics railing against the United States, which never succeeded in many attempts to oust him.

He was forced to step down in 2008 by poor health and was succeeded by his brother Raul, who is now 83.

“The president of Cuba has taken the pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and the powers given to him by the National Assembly the Communist Party of Cuba,” Fidel Castro said of his brother in the statement. His silence on the issue had led to speculation over his health and whether he supported his brother’s rapprochement with the United States.

On January 12, he sent a letter to friend and retired Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona that squelched rumors he had died. At the time, it was the first reported word from Castro in nearly three months. The letter was read on a Venezuelan state television network.

  Criticisms

In Washington, some Cuban-American lawmakers have criticized Obama, saying the administration had given up too much without securing human rights commitments.

Yet what many observers found most stunning in so much change is that the leader of Cuba’s 1959 revolution - a lawyer by training famous for speaking for hours in detail - has yet to publicly comment about the detente that his brother Raul, 83, has engaged with his old enemy.

Observers argue that Castro’s letter was hardly a ringing endorsement of US-Cuban rapprochement but nor was it a rejection of the decision to re-establish political ties with the great enemy to the north.

Obama has called on Congress to lift the US embargo on Havana, and used executive powers to ease some travel and trade restrictions. He has also given the State Department six months to review whether Cuba should remain on the terror list.

According to reports, Pope Francis played a central role in mediating the secret negotiations that led to the December announcement.

 

Financialtribune.com