Havana lashes out against Trump’s May 20 message to the Cuban people

Cuban leader Raúl Castro during May Day celebrations in Havana.
Cuban leader Raúl Castro during May Day celebrations in Havana. AP

Havana has reacted strongly to a statement issued by President Donald Trump to the Cuban people over the weekend to mark the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba.

A statement read on Cuban state television on Saturday described Trump’s message as “controversial” and “ridiculous.”

“...the Miami Herald on Saturday published a controversial and ridiculous message from the ill-advised U.S. President Donald Trump to the people of Cuba about May 20, a date that the United States considers as the emergence of the Republic of Cuba, when we actually know that what was born that day was a Yankee neo-colony, which lived until on January 1, 1959,” says the statement, referencing the date when Fidel Castro seized control of the island.

The statement, which was also published on the Cuban TV website, is signed only as “Official Note” and it is unclear whether it corresponds to a change of position by the Cuban government, which had been careful in its statements on the new U.S. president, who has ordered a review of Cuba policy.

On several occasions, the Cuban government has offered to maintain a dialogue with the United States.

Official notes from Havana are usually signed by “the Revolutionary Government” or the governmental entity issuing it. Cuban Television responds directly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a conservative bastion within the government of Raúl Castro.

The Cuban Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The statement also references a wire story published in el Nuevo Herald that focused on “Trump's slips in state affairs.”

“Even within in the U.S. government there is knowledge of the contradictory and clumsy pronouncements of the millionaire tycoon turned president, on issues of politics, both exterior and interior,” the statement says.

On Sunday, state television continued to lash out with commentator Oliver Zamora stating in the noon newscast:

“..Now we must really worry about the future of bilateral relations after this letter from the president-magnate, because he can only respond to two initial positions, or part of the cynicism, or at best ignorance.”

Trump's message, which triggered Havana's reaction, highlighted “that cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans’ dreams for their children to live free from oppression.”

Trump also promised that he will work for Cubans on the island to have a government that respects democracy and civil liberties.

During his campaign, Trump promised to change Cuba policy, and a State Department official recently said that the United States would seek to put more pressure on the Cuban government regarding its human rights record. It was anticipated that an announcement about these changes would come by Saturday, but it was postponed because of the president’s trip to the Middle East and because the Cuba policy review has not been completed, a White House spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres