Cuban parliament president dismisses Obama

News from Cuba | Saturday, 9 May 2009

By ROB GILLIES for Associated Press

Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon dismissed President Barack Obama's recent overtures to Cuba and said Saturday the new U.S. administration's stance is a continuation of an illegal, unjustifiable and failed policy.

Obama has suggested it may be time for a new beginning with Cuba, and the White House authorized unlimited travel and money transfer for Americans with relatives in Cuba. But his administration has said it would like Cuba to respond by making small political and social changes to its single-party communist system.

"In other words Cuba must change and behave in accordance with Washington's wishes," Alarcon said at the closing of a Cuban academic conference in Canada.

"That attitude is not only the continuation an illegal unjustifiable and failed policy it is also the consequence of a profound misconception, a false perception of itself that lies as the foundation of U.S. role in the world."

Alarcon said Obama's gestures were dictated by growing domestic demand and don't amount to much.

"Essentially he lifted newer restrictions that George W Bush had imposed on Cuban American travelers," Alarcon said.

The three-day forum at Queen's University examined the significance of the 50th anniversary of the Cuba revolution but very few anti-Castro views were heard.

The U.S. has long sought what it considers real change from Cuba in the areas of human rights, free speech, free markets and democracy.

Last month, President Raul Castro said Cuba was willing to discuss "everything" with the U.S., leading to hopes that a door was opening to a new relationship.

But former president Fidel Castro insists that Cuba should make no concessions in return for better U.S. ties.

The Obama administration has said it has no plans to lift the embargo which bans nearly all trade with Cuba. The island's government blames those sanctions for frequent shortages of food, medicine, farming and transportation machinery and other basics.

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