Cuba's Castro hits out at US sanctions on left-wing LatAm gov'ts

Santiago de Cuba (Cuba) (AFP) –


Former Cuban president Raul Castro on Thursday accused the United States of tightening "the noose" around his country, Venezuela and Nicaragua but vowed to "respond to every challenge."

"For us, the same as for Venezuela and Nicaragua, it's very clear that the noose is tightening, and our people need to be ready to respond to every challenge with unity, resolve, optimism and unwavering faith in the victory," Castro said.

Those three countries -- all currently subject to US sanctions -- are among the last bastions of far left governance in Latin America amid a general trend to the right in recent years.

Since Donald Trump's election as US president, relations with Cuba have deteriorated after a historic rapprochement under his predecessor Barack Obama.

Castro, the brother of late revolutionary hero Fidel, said the return of right-wing governments in the region and Washington's hostility towards the left had "reawakened euphoria among our enemies who dream of destroying the Cuban example."

Dressed in military uniform, Castro was speaking at an event marking the 65th anniversary of a guerrilla attack on a military barracks seen as the start of the Cuban revolution against US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Raul Castro, who is 87, assumed the Cuban presidency after Fidel stepped down for health reasons in 2008. He in turn handed over the presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel in April.

Bilateral US-Cuban relations had improved since Raul came to power, with full diplomatic relations restored in 2015 -- they had been dissolved in 1961 after Cuba fostered close ties with the communist Soviet Union.

Cuba has been run as a single-party socialist or communist state since Batista was ousted in January 1959.

Castro said the US-led blockade of Cuba had "intensified... in particular the persecution of our financial transactions."

He also blasted statements about Cuba by US officials as "disrespectful, aggressive, interventionist and crudely manipulating historical facts."