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Fidel Castro urges changes in U.S., not Cuba

Three days after stepping down as Cuban leader, Fidel Castro was back in the fray on Friday calling on the United States to change its longtime policy of sanctions toward Cuba.
/ Source: Reuters

Three days after stepping down as Cuban leader, Fidel Castro was back in the fray on Friday calling on the United States to change its longtime policy of sanctions toward Cuba.

Castro said in an article that he had intended to take a few days off from writing when he announced his retirement on Tuesday after 49 years in power, but could not keep silent.

The international reaction to his departure, including calls for “liberty” in Cuba, forced him to “open fire” again on his ideological enemies in the United States, he said.

“I enjoyed seeing the embarrassing position of all the U.S. presidential candidates,” he wrote in a column published by the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

“One by one, they felt obliged to make immediate demands on Cuba to avoid risking a single vote,” Castro said.

“’Change, change, change!”’ they cried in chorus. I agree, ’change!’ but in the United States,” he wrote.

Brother to take power
Castro, 81, has not appeared in public since undergoing stomach surgery and handing power temporarily to his brother Raul in July 2006. Cuba’s rubber-stamp National Assembly is expected to name Raul Castro as Cuba’s new leader on Sunday.

Fidel Castro, the most enduring political leader of the last century, turned Cuba into a one-party state and Soviet ally on the doorstep of the United States after seizing power in an armed revolution in 1959.

He survived the Cold War, CIA assassination attempts and what he calls the U.S. “blockade” during 10 administrations.

President Bush has tightened the 45-year trade embargo and has rejected easing sanctions or restrictions on travel to Cuba without a transition to democracy.

On Tuesday on a stop in Rwanda on his trip to Africa, Bush said Castro’s departure should kick off a period of democratic change in Cuba.

That would mean the “annexation” of Cuba by the United States, Castro retorted on Friday. He also criticized the ”diminished European powers” for joining U.S. pressure for political change in Cuba.

Cuba and U.S. politics
The Republican front-runner to succeed Bush, John McCain, on Tuesday said Washington must keep sanctions on Cuba’s communist government in place until it allows free elections and releases political prisoners. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama suggested they might lift the trade embargo if Fidel Castro’s successor moves toward democracy.

The Democratic candidates differed in a debate on Thursday on how quickly to hold talks with Cuba, with front-runner Obama expressing a willingness to move quickly toward a meeting with Castro’s replacement. Clinton was more cautious, saying Cuba should first make progress improving human rights.

Castro, who will retain veto power as first secretary of the ruling Communist Party, said on Tuesday that he was too weakened by his undisclosed illness to continue as president and “commander in chief” of Cuba.

He said he would soldier on in the “battle of ideas” by penning articles from his new trench as a columnist.

“My conscience was clear and I promised myself a holiday,” he said in the column published on Friday but written on Tuesday.

“I had planned to stop writing my reflections for at least 10 days, but I could not remain silent for so long. I have to open fire ideologically on them,” he wrote.

Castro, who has been the top headline in Cuba for half a century, asked that his column not be published on the front-page. It appeared on Granma’s page two as a column by ”comrade Fidel” and no longer the “Comandante en Jefe.”