Follow the Soapbox
 
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Alan Gomez
USA TODAY 
January 27, 2015

MIAMI — Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, unseen and unheard from since Cuba and the U.S. announced a historic normalization of relations between the long-time foes, finally broke his silence late Monday, giving halfhearted support to the new relationship.

Castro said it was well within the rights of his brother, Cuban President Raúl Castro, to broker the new agreement, adding any peaceful resolution of conflict between the United States and Latin American country should be welcomed by all. But Castro, who has long blamed the U.S. for his country's economic problems and long opposed striking any deal with his neighbor to the north, made clear that he remains suspicious.

"I don't trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts," he wrote in a letter directed at a student federation at the University of Havana that was also published in Spanish in the Communist Party newspaper Granma. "We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries."

Fidel Castro's silence has been so noticeable that it helped fuel another round of rumors that the bearded leader had died.

For years after he handed power over to his younger brother in 2006, he maintained his visibility through pictures with visiting dignitaries, concessional television appearances and a column in the communist newspaper he called "Reflections." After this latest round of death rumors, Castro used another letter to prove he was alive, that time writing to former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona.



In Monday's letter, Castro reflected on the 70th anniversary of his enrollment at the University of Havana, recalling lessons of communist leaders such as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. He lamented that other students at his school allowed themselves to be entangled in the "tentacles" of bourgeoisie thinking that had taken hold.

He wrote about the long history of income inequality around the world. He cited the brilliance of the ancient Greeks in the areas of science, politics and art, but chastised them for building up that body of knowledge on the backs of slaves doing the hard work of maintaining the society.

He blamed the United States and Israel for helping the "racist South African army" wage a war against Angola. In the 1970s, Castro sent more than 20,000 of his troops to help Angola defend itself.

That's why Castro felt South Africa was such a curious setting for Obama and Raúl Castro to meet and shake hands in public for the first time. The two leaders were attending the memorial service of Nelson Mandela, and their handshake in the crowd stirred up heated sentiments across the globe.

Castro ended his letter calling for an agreement that improves the condition of "human dignity" around the world.

"The serious dangers that threaten humanity today should give way to rules that are consistent with human dignity," he wrote. "No country is excluded from such rights. I have fought with that spirit and will continue fighting until my last breathe."


 


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