Havana rejects Obama’s call for ‘change’: Cubans ’empowered themselves decades ago’

Special to WorldTribune.com

Days before President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba, the Havana government said any attempt by the U.S. leader to call for the communist island to “change” would be a waste of time.

The White House, meanwhile, said Obama still plans to deliver a pro-democracy message directly to Cubans.

41217C00-LGSKDForeign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Cuba would agree to remove the 10 percent penalty on converting American dollars if the U.S. follows through on letting Cuba access the global banking system.

Other than that small concession, Rodriguez said Havana would flatly dismiss any sweeping steps Obama proposes to ease the U.S. embargo on Cuba and strongly rejects any pro-democracy inroads the American president attempts to make.

“Various U.S. officials have declared in recent hours that the objective of Obama’s measures is empowering the Cuban people. The Cuban people empowered themselves decades ago,” Rodriguez said on March 17, referring to the 1959 revolution that put the current Cuban government in power.

He added that “something must be going wrong in U.S. democracy” and urged Obama to focus on empowering his own people.

Rodriguez gave a lengthy list of complaints Havana has with the Obama administration, including the ban on Cuban government accounts in U.S. banks and a prohibition on direct U.S. investment in Cuba.

Hours after Rodriguez addressed reporters in Havana, U.S. National Security Advisor Rice said Obama would meet with dissidents in Cuba and “speak candidly” with President Raul Castro about areas of disagreement — “particularly human rights.”

“We believe the Cuban people, like people everywhere, are best served by genuine democracy,” Rice said.

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