Cuban leader takes a jab at Trump at the UN, blaming capitalism for world’s woes

Miguel Díaz-Canel speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Miguel Díaz-Canel speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York. MINREX

Capitalism — not socialism — is to blame for the world’s problems, Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel said Wednesday in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, which was a direct reply to President Donald Trump’s speech the previous day.

The Cuban leader said inequality and poverty around the world “are not the result of socialism, as the president of the United States claimed yesterday before this assembly. They are the consequences of capitalism, especially imperialism and neoliberalism.”

Díaz-Canel also accused the Trump administration of attacking Venezuela “with special cruelty” as well as maintaining an “aggressive rhetoric” and a policy of “subversion” against Cuba. Without directly mentioning the alleged attacks against U.S. diplomats in Havana, Díaz-Canel accused the United States of “artificially fabricating, with false pretexts, scenarios of tensions and hostility that benefit nobody.”

At a press briefing later in the day, Trump was asked whether he’ll be more proactive against Cuba.

“I’ve been very proactive against Cuba. I don’t like what is happening in Cuba,” Trump said. “As you know, president Obama gave them a pass and I didn’t like it. Neither do Cuban people based in Miami and based in our country that came from Cuba and suffered in Cuba. I don’t like what he did. I’ve ended much of it. Most of it. I don’t like what’s happening in Cuba. And I certainly don’t like what’s happening in Venezuela.”

On the fight against socialism, Trump said: “I wouldn’t say that socialism has been working really well around the world. You can take a look at Venezuela as your number one, I guess the one that is most obvious. But you take a look around the world and socialism is not really riding high.”

During his address before the General Assembly, Díaz-Canel — who succeeded Raúl Castro as president in April — dismissed speculation that he is a reformer in the style of Mikhail Gorbachev, a possibility that has been raised by some Cuba observers.

“The generational change in our government should not give hope to the adversaries of the revolution. We are continuity, not a rupture,” he declared during a speech in which he also condemned the U.S. trade “blockade” against Cuba and reaffirmed the island’s support for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and other longstanding Cuban foreign policies.

He also said he did not expect big changes in the new Cuban constitution that is to be approved next year in a referendum, and was convinced that the “irrevocable character of socialism will be ratified” by the vote.

During a session earlier Wednesday dedicated to the elimination of nuclear weapons, Díaz-Canel said the late Fidel Castro, one of the protagonists of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, was an “untiring fighter for nuclear disarmament, an issue he took up with all his energies and in many of his written columns.”

The Cuban leader also criticized the United States for withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran and warned that might have “grave consequences” for stability in the Middle East. His first bilateral meeting Monday was with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Díaz-Canel also said Cuba supports the peaceful uses of atomic energy and in January became the fifth country to ratify an international agreement on the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

He also heaped praise on Raúl Castro, who retains the powerful job of first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party. Díaz-Canel described Castro as “a father” shortly after he was named to succeed Castro.

Díaz Canel also met with the president of El Salvador Wednesday morning and was scheduled to meet later with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. On Wednesday night, he was scheduled to attend what was described as a “solidarity with Cuba” event organized by IFCO/Pastors for Peace and the Riverside Church in Manhattan.

The Cuban leader held a string of bilateral meetings Tuesday with the European Union’s foreign affairs director, Federica Mogherini, and the leaders of Bolivia, Panama, Angola, South Africa, Barbados, Spain and Argentina.

That last meeting raised eyebrows because Cuba’s official news media has been attacking the Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his close ties to the Trump administration. The Cuban foreign ministry and Argentina’s presidential palace gave no details on the meeting.

The president of Spain, meanwhile, was invited to travel to Havana for what would be the first visit from a Spanish head of state in three decades. And Panama President Juan Carlos Varela briefly mentioned Cuba during his speech to the General Assembly, urging the United States to return to warmer policies toward the island.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez met Tuesday with his Russian counterpart, Sergéi Lavrov. Some news outlets have reported that Russia is the principal suspect in the alleged attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana.

McClatchy correspondent Franco Ordoñez contributed to this report from Washington.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

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