Fidel Castro says Cuba can talk with Obama

Campaign News | Thursday, 4 December 2008

By Anita Snow, Associated Press

Fidel Castro said Thursday that President-elect Barack Obama is a man Cuba can talk with and indicated that communist officials would be willing to meet with him wherever he wants.

But the former Cuban leader expressed disappointment with some of Obama's Cabinet choices, including Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Robert Gates as defense secretary.

In his latest essay distributed to official media, the ailing 82-year-old former president wrote that with Obama "a conversation can be held wherever he wants," and that Cuban officials don't expect the new U.S. administration to be marked by violence and war.

But he added that Obama must remember that a carrot-and-stick approach won't work with Cuba.

Castro, and Cuban officials in general, have said very little about Obama since he won the U.S. presidential election. But he did describe him as intelligent in an earlier essay.

Fidel's younger brother, President Raul Castro, suggested in an recent interview with actor-director Sean Penn for The Nation magazine that he and Obama hold talks at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo.

On Obama's Cabinet choices, Fidel Castro noted that Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, signed laws that significantly tightened the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and that Hillary Clinton expressed support for maintaining the embargo.

"I'm not complaining," Castro wrote. "I'm simply pointing it out."

The older Castro brother also said that Gates, who Obama has asked to stay on as defense secretary, is a Republican rather than a Democrat like the future president.

Despite his disappointment, "I wouldn't say now that Obama is less intelligent. On the contrary, he is demonstrating faculties that allowed me to see and compare his capacity with his mediocre adversary John McCain."

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