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Havana challenges Clinton on embargo remarks

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-26

Cuban officials have challenged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her recent remarks that Havana did not want normalised relations with the US, urging Washington to lift the embargo "even for a year".

AFP - Cuba challenged the United States Sunday to lift a decades-old trade embargo "even for a year" to test its contention that the island's leaders do not want the embargo lifted or normal relations with Washington.
  
The challenge by National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon was the first official response to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's April 9 charge that Fidel Castro and his brother President Raul Castro do not want a transition to democracy or the restoration of US relations severed in 1961.
  
Clinton told a university audience in Kentucky that the Castros "do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States because they would then lose all their excuses for what hasn't happened in Cuba in the last 50 years."
  
Alarcon, speaking to reporters after casting his ballot in municipal elections here, said, "If she really thinks that the blockade benefits the Cuban government -- which she wants to undermine -- the solution is very simple: that they lift it even for a year to see whether it is in our interest or theirs."
  
Alarcon said there were things Clinton could do "with a stroke of the pen" to improve relations, such as allowing visits by the wives of two of five Cubans serving prison sentences in the United States for espionage.
  
President Barack Obama came into office seeking better relations with Cuba, but after an initial thaw, tensions have set in again, most recently over Cuba's treatment of dissidents.
  
Havana has accused Washington of waging a campaign to destabilize the government. But it has come under fire internationally and from activists inside Cuba since the February 12 death of dissident Orlando Zapata in a prison hunger strike. A second dissident, Guillermo Farinas, took up the hunger strike after Zapata's death.
  
The government has portrayed the municipal elections, which have been held every two years since 1976, as evidence of public support for the one-party state.
  
Although the Cuban Communist Party does not officially field candidates, it supervises the process and ensures that no opponents of the government are elected.
  
Turnout in previous elections have been as high as 95 percent, which the authorities tout as a "victory of the Revolution."

Date created : 2010-04-26

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