Cuba not afraid of talks with US: Fidel Castro

April 7th, 2009 - 12:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Havana, April 7 (EFE) Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has said his country is not afraid of dialogue with the US and did not want to extend the decades long confrontation with the powerful nation.
“We’re not afraid of dialogue with the US. Nor do we need confrontation to exist, as some idiots think - we exist precisely because we believe in our ideas and have never feared dialogue with the enemy,” Castro said in an article published on Cubadebate Monday.

“It is the only way to achieve peace and friendship among countries,” he stressed.

The comments came as a seven-member team of US lawmakers visited Cuba to try to end mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans.

The revolutionary leader called the 47-year-old US economic embargo on his country a “total failure” and supported US Republican Senator Richard Lugag’s recent request to Obama to appoint a special envoy to begin direct conversations with the communist country to end hostilities.

“People who can analyze the course of events calmly, as is the case of the senator from Indiana, use an unbeatable argument: the (economic) sanctions of the US against Cuba for almost half a century have been a total failure,” said Fidel, who stepped down a little more than a year ago in favor of younger brother Raul Castro.

“We exist precisely because we believe in our ideas, and we’ve never been afraid to talk with our adversary. It’s the only way to achieve friendship and peace between peoples,” he added.

Lugar, one of two Republican co-sponsors of a bill that calls for ending restrictions on US residents who wish to travel to Cuba, made the proposal for a Cuba envoy in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post recently.

“I’m sure that Lugar isn’t afraid of ridiculous charges of being soft or pro-socialist,” Castro said at a time when various sectors in the United States are pushing for a detente with Cuba, including seven members of Congress who are currently visiting the island.

One of those lawmakers, Mel Watt responded to Fidel’s latest comments by saying that Washington likewise has no need for either dialogue or confrontation with Cuba.

Castro’s column made it “clear that both countries can exist without either dialogue or enmity to each other”, Watt told a press conference in Havana.

“But wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we struck a dialogue and found the things that were mutually advantageous and mutually of interest to our two countries … and stopped the historical divisions that have separated us (though we are) so close geographically?,” he added.

The North Carolina lawmaker said the goal of the current trip of seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus is to try and overcome some of those historical differences and enmities, and forge a dialogue of interest to both countries.

The seven lawmakers have met Cuba’s parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

At the beginning of last month, Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill, one of whose provisions eased the onerous restrictions the Bush administration imposed in 2004 on travel to Cuba by Cuban Americans.

While unwilling to completely lift the economic embargo Washington has maintained against Cuba since 1962, the Obama administration appears open to the idea of reducing, if not eliminating, restrictions on travel to the island.

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