Cuba sure of future friendship with US, says Foreign Minister
Campaign News | Tuesday, 21 September 2004
We are relying on the people, says Roque at UN
UNITED NATIONS Septmeber 24 - Despite US efforts to topple Fidel Castro, Cuba is certain its communist system will be preserved and is optimistic that Cubans and Americans can be friends once the US blockade is lifted, Cuba's foreign minister said on Thursday.
In an interview with The Associated Press during his visit to the UN General Assembly, Felipe Perez Roque made a sharp distinction between the US government's hard-line toward the Cuban leader and the American public's and Congress' support for easing the sanctions.
``We rely on the nobility and the sense of justice of the American people," he said. ``We don't hold them accountable for our suffering. We believe that just like us they have fallen victims to a policy that has been designed to serve the interests of a small minority."
Perez Roque said if Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry defeats President Bush in November and ``lifts some of the blockade measures that would be positive, but it would not be enough."
``What needs to be done is to lift the blockade completely because it is rejected by the United Nations, both houses of the US Congress, by the American people - and it affects the interests and the rights of all the Cubans living in the United States," he said.
Kerry, like Bush, supports the US embargo but has said he wants a review of American policy toward the island, including a long-standing travel ban.
The Bush administration tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba in June as part of a package of measures aimed at squeezing the country's economy and. Cuban authorities called it an electoral ploy to placate anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Florida.
Perez Roque said the new measures were having a ``tremendous impact," especially on Cuban families in both countries.
``However, they are useless in trying to defeat the Cuban people," he said. ``They will not meet their objectives. They are an indication of a failed policy that has no future."
The Cuban minister called this week's votes by the US House of Representatives to nullify the Bush administration's rules restricting family travel to Cuba and removing barriers to agriculture sales and student exchanges ``a positive decision." It shows the embargo is only supported by the US government ``and by a small portion of the Cuban-born extremist right wing in the United States," he said.
As in past years, actions by both houses of Congress to ease economic and social sanctions are expected to make little headway against the Bush administration's determination not to make life easier for the Cuban government. It has threatened to veto a $90 billion spending bill if it contains any language weakening sanctions.
Despite Bush's policy of working for regime change, Perez Roque said: ``We feel optimistic and we are certain about our future."
``We believe that we have the strength, the unity and the passion to preserve our country, to continue building a more just society than we have now," he said. ``We feel optimistic about the fact that when the blockade will be lifted, both the people of Cuba and the people of the United States will be friends once again."
Taking aim at the Bush administration, Perez Roque said he wondered how it was that in the relatively wealthy United States 40 million people have no health insurance while in Cuba health care is free.
Before returning to Havana, he said he would meet with groups representing wide sectors of the Cuban community that are in favor of normalizing relations - both American- and Cuban-born.
``We have been saying ... that we are in favor of the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States," the Cuban minister said. ``We are not against the American people. We don't feel that the American people is our enemy. On the contrary, we admire (their) culture."