Cuban state media calls Clinton cynical for saying Castros don’t really want US embargo lifted

By Will Weissert, AP
Monday, April 12, 2010

Cuba: Clinton’s comments on Castros ‘cynical’

HAVANA — Cuban state media called U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton a cynic Monday for her assertion that Fidel and Raul Castro don’t want Washington’s 48-year embargo lifted because they would no longer be able to blame America for their country’s problems.

Clinton’s comment last week “mixed ignorance and falsehoods at an infinite level,” state-run Radio Reloj said.

“If cynicism needed an expression that would immortalize it, the American secretary of state gave it,” the station said in a report read over the air and posted on its Web site.

Clinton’s remarks also appeared without further commentary on Cubadebate, the government Internet site where Fidel Castro publishes frequent opinion pieces. The elder Castro dropped out of public view after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006, and his brother Raul has since taken over the presidency.

Following a speech on nuclear terrorism at the University of Louisville on Friday, Clinton said, “it is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years.”

Cuban officials of ranks high and low routinely fault the embargo for the vast majority of daily difficulties on the island — from shortages of housing, food and domestic goods to severely limited Internet access and spotty public transpiration.

The communist government says the U.S. policy, which took its current form in 1962 and chokes off trade between both countries — with some exceptions for food and agricultural goods — has cost it at least $96 billion to date.

Later Monday, the head of Cuba’s parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, appeared on a special program on state-run television and said American officials routinely criticize politics in his country while ignoring the whole truth in order to manipulate international public opinion.

“The question one has to ask is, why is this campaign intensifying now?” Alarcon said, suggesting that Washington could be out to discredit municipal elections Cuba will hold later this month.

That vote is part of a multitiered electoral system where candidates are nominated for positions by a show of hands during political meetings held on street corners, then confirmed for those posts at the ballot box. The Communist Party is the only political party allowed in Cuba.

During her remarks last week, Clinton said Cuba should be given an opportunity for a transition to full democracy, but that may not happen anytime soon under an “intransigent, entrenched regime.”

Whenever it looks like normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations could be a possibility, she added, “the Castro regime does something to try to stymie it.”

The Obama administration says it has worked to thaw nearly a half-century of ice-cold U.S. relations with Cuba in a number of ways, including easing limits on Cuban-Americans who want to travel or send money to the island that were imposed by George W. Bush. Top officials from both countries have also met to discuss resuming direct mail service and tackle immigration issues, as well as relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Obama says Washington has no intention of lifting the embargo unless Cuba embraces democratic and human rights reforms and frees its political prisoners, who independent human rights groups on the island say number around 200.

Cuba’s government counters that it holds no political prisoners and protects human rights better than most countries since its communist system provides free health care and education through college to all Cubans.

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