US blockade has cost $975 billion, Cuba minister says

The US blockade of Cuba has cost the communist island $975 billion dollars, its foreign minister said Monday, making a new offer to start talks with the US administration.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla told the UN General Assembly in his annual speech that the United States has "intensified" efforts to overthrow the government.

The US embargo on Cuba was first partially imposed in 1960 -- just after Fidel Castro staged his revolution -- and remains in force with the United States banning most trade and most travel to the Caribbean island.

Rodriguez said the embargo has been "tightened" and "the damage it has caused total $975 billion, according to the present gold price."

"Attempts to subvert the constitutional order that Cubans have free elected have intensified," he added.

But the minister also said "The Cuban government reiterates its willingness and interest to move towards the normalization of relations with the United States."

He proposed talks on humanitarian issues as well as cooperation on countering the drugs trade, terrorism and people smuggling.

"However we know that the electoral race has already begun in this country while the economic situation is getting worse," Rodriguez said.

US President Barack Obama in 2009 reversed the restrictions on immediate family travel and allowed Cuban Americans to send remittances to relatives. Some direct flights are also allowed. But he cannot lift the embargo without Congress approval.

Rodriguez also warned Monday that US and NATO-fostered regime change, like what took place in Libya, might soon plague leftist Latin American leaders who run afoul of the United States.

"The United States and NATO, supposedly to avoid a massacre, launched a military attack against a sovereign State without there being any threat to international peace and security, and unleashed a 'change of regime' operation," he told the General Assembly.

"Now everybody has a better understanding of the concept of 'responsibility to protect' and what it can be used for," Rodriguez said in his address.

Cuba, the Americas' only one-party Communist regime, plus its allies Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have slammed the NATO-led operation that ousted Moamer Kadhafi.

"This new 'change of regime' operations model shows that the current US and NATO military doctrines are ever more aggressive than the previous ones," Rodriguez said.

So "can the US and NATO give guarantees today that the use of force and this concept of 'regime change' are not applicable in the case of the Latin American and Caribbean countries that do not yield to their interests?" he asked.

The United States says it favors democracy but even in the post-Cold War era, when leftist leaders are elected in Latin America, Washington often has been less than even-handed in supporting democratically elected leftists, analysts say.

Rodriguez cited "the (foiled) coup d'etat against Venezuela in 2002" under President Hugo Chavez, and the successful 2009 coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya in Honduras as examples of US heavy-handedness in practice.


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