Cuba's former President Fidel Castro says President Barack Obama "misinterpreted" his brother Raul's remarks regarding the United States and bristled at the suggestion that Cuba should free political prisoners or cut taxes on remittances from abroad as a goodwill gesture to the U.S.
Cuba's President Raul Castro (R) talks to members of the U.S. congress during a meeting in Havana April 6, 2009.
Raul Castro touched off a whirlwind of speculation last week that the U.S. and Cuba could be headed toward a thaw in nearly a half-century of chilly relations. The speculation began when the Cuban president said leaders would be willing to sit down with their U.S. counterparts and discuss "everything," including human rights, freedom of the press and expression, and political prisoners on the island.
Obama responded at the Summit of the Americas by saying Washington seeks a new beginning with Cuba, but he also said Sunday that Cuba should release some political prisoners and reduce official taxes on remittances sent to the island from the U.S.
That appeared to enrage Fidel Castro, 82, who wrote in an essay posted on a government Web site that Obama "without a doubt misinterpreted Raul's declarations."
The former president appeared to be throwing a dose of cold water on growing expectations for improved bilateral relations — suggesting Obama had no right to dare suggest that Cuba make even small concessions. He also seemed to suggest too much was being made of Raul's comments about discussing "everything" with U.S. authorities.
"Affirming that the president of Cuba is ready to discuss any topic with the president of the United States expresses that he's not afraid to broach any subject," Fidel Castro wrote of his 77-year-old brother, who succeeded him as president 14 months ago.
"It's a sign of bravery and confidence in the principles of the revolution," he said, referring to the rebel uprising that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista and brought the Castros to power on New Year's Day 1959.
"Nobody should assume that he was talking about pardoning those sentenced in March 2003 and sending all of them to the United States, if the country were willing to liberate the five Cuban anti-terrorist heroes," Castro wrote.
He also defended Cuba's right to levy a 10 percent fee on every U.S. dollar sent to relatives on the island by Cuban-Americans, saying if the money arriving from abroad "is in dollars, all the more reason we should do it because it is the currency of the country that blockades us."