(AFP) – May 1, 2009
HAVANA (AFP) — Fidel Castro blasted US President Barack Obama Friday in provocative May Day remarks, saying the United States only wanted Cuba to return "to the fold, like slaves."
Castro, 82, who led Cuba for almost 50 years and remains head of the Cuban Communist Party, was not in outreach mode, though Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, 77, have willingness to ease Cold War-era tensions.
"Today, they stand ready to forgive us -- as if we would resign ourselves to returning to the fold like slaves, who after tasting freedom, go back to the yoke and whip," Fidel Castro said in a defiant address published in Cuban state media to mark May Day.
Obama has said the United States wants to see progress on human rights and political freedom from Cuba. That runs counter to Cuba's main interest in maintaining and projecting the Americas' only communist regime into the future.
Castro, who for decades referred to the United States as the enemy, warned: "The (US) adversary must never delude itself into thinking that Cuba will surrender."
President Raul Castro, decked out in a tropi-casual guayabera shirt and farmer's hat, meanwhile presided over an estimated 500,000 Cubans called out to march in the annual May Day parade.
Marchers, waving signs with slogans like "Down With the Genocidal Blockade," were calling for an end to the US economic embargo on Cuba.
Cuba on Thursday accused the US government of being an "international criminal" after Washington lumped Cuba with Iran, Syria and Sudan on a blacklist as state sponsors of terrorism in a US State Department report.
"The author (of the report) is an international criminal," said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
"We do not recognize any political or moral authorities from the government of the United States to create any list, on any subject, nor to certify good or bad behaviors," Cuba's top diplomat said at a press conference.
"In matters of terrorism, the government of the United States has had a long record of state-sponsored acts of terrorism, not only against Cuba."
Havana namely accuses Washington of "giving refuge" to Luis Posada Carriles, a one-time CIA operative that Cuba and Venezuela want in connection with the bombing of a Cuban passenger plane in 1976 that killed 73 people.
Posada Carriles was arrested in the United States in 2005 on immigration charges, but was released in May 2007 after a federal judge in Texas dropped the indictment.
Rodriguez also charged that the administration of former president George W. Bush "was certified by the world public opinion" as being "aggressive and warmongering," and that it violated international law and carried out torture.
Obama has eased a few US sanctions on Cuba.
But he has not actively opposed the 47-year-old US economic embargo on Cuba, which Havana says it wants lifted.
Nor has Obama publicly addressed the issue of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba's southeast coast. He has, however, vowed to close the prison camp on the base by January 2010.
President Raul Castro bluntly declared on Wednesday that Cuba will not make symbolic "gestures" to appease the United States, even while leaving a door open to more dialogue.
In a first direct Cuban response to a US call for gestures from communist Cuba, Castro told a Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Havana that any forthcoming shows of goodwill must start from the US side.
"Cuba is not the one that stops its country's businessmen from doing business with ours; Cuba is not the one punishing financial transactions by US banks," the Cuban leader said.
"Cuba does not have a military base on US territory against the will of its people," Raul Castro stressed in a clear reference to the Guantanamo prison, which has been steeped in controversy worldwide.
Havana has demanded that the United States leave the Guantanamo base for decades, but Washington insists it has a right to stay.
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