Former Cuban president Fidel Castro publicly criticized President Barack Obama’s recent Cuban trip in a letter published Monday, his first official response to Obama’s historic visit.
“We do not need the empire to give us anything,” Castro said in a 1,500-word column for Granma, the Cuban Communist Party’s official newspaper.
Entitled “Brother Obama,” the letter denounced Obama’s “sweetened words” to the Cuban people in Havana, where he asked them to “forget the past, leave the past behind [and] look to the future together,” Castro quoted Obama as saying. Despite the audience’s enthusiastic response to the president’s words, Castro wrote, “all of us were at risk of a heart attack upon hearing these words from the President of the United States.”
“My modest suggestion is that he gives it thought and does not attempt now to elaborate theories on Cuban policy,” Castro wrote, citing what he said was a part of a U.S. history of aggression toward Cuba, including the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and nearly 60-year blockade against the communist country.
Though Castro did not address any of the specific policy decisions Obama proposed during his speech, such as lifting the embargo and allowing U.S. companies to do business on Cuban soil, he did warn that “[n]obody should be under the impression that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights or the spiritual wealth they have gained.”
Castro was not absolute in his criticism of the president. He praised Obama’s “humble origin and natural intelligence,” which were “evident” during the trip.
Obama did not meet with the 89-year-old former Cuban leader during his three-day visit to the island nation. Castro’s brother, President Raúl Castro, attended a baseball game with Obama.
Following a period of illness, Castro stepped down as president in favor of his brother Raúl in 2008. According to CNN, Castro still wields an “enormous influence” in Cuba, where people study his writing and infrequent appearances “for insights into Cuba’s opaque political system.”