On Monday, the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro broke his six-week silence, writing in a letter that he supports a peaceful end to conflict but does not trust American politics. It was the first time Castro had spoken publicly about President Obama's plan to normalize relations with Cuba, which was announced in December. The changes will allow more U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, and will allow small amounts of Cuban goods to be brought back from the island nation. The letter, which was written to a student federation at the University of Havana, was published in the state newspaper Granma.
“We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all of the world’s people, among them our political adversaries,” Mr. Castro wrote in the letter.
Last month Cuba and the United States exchanged prisoners, another step toward further thawing of the five-decade stalemate. Castro has long been the symbol of Communist Cuba, serving as the country's prime minister from 1959 to 1976, and its president from 1976 to 2008. Castro transferred power to his brother Raul in 2008 due to illness. When Castro did not immediately respond to President Obama's December announcement, many speculated that the 88-year-old Castro's health had declined further, or, that he had died.
The U.S. and Cuba broke off relations in 1961, as the Communist Party in Cuba grew in power. Castro has reportedly been the target of numerous CIA assassination attempts over the years, so it is no surprise that during his time as Cuba's head of state, Castro built up a distrust of American politicians and their policies, as was evident in his latest comments, according to The New York Times:
I shall explain my essential position in a few words. I do not trust the politics of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this is not, in any way, a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts.
When Obama shook hands with Raul Castro at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in 2013, there was widespread hope that a reconciliation between the two countries might finally be possible. Raul is seen as more moderate than his brother. And, in this week's letter, Fidel indicated that Raul is empowered to broker discussions with the U.S.
The letter left open the possibility that even Fidel Castro might finally be coming around, although with some reluctance. "We shall always defend the cooperation and friendship between all people, among them our political adversaries," he wrote. "With this spirit, I have fought, and will continue fighting until my last breath."
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