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Castro keeps up rhetoric on Obama to end embargo


MOSCOW, April 20 (RIA Novosti) - Fidel Castro has hit back at criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama over Cuba's human rights record, calling on the United States to end the "cruel blockade against the Cuban people."

Speaking on Sunday at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, Obama said he welcomed Cuba's willingness for negotiations, but that Cubans "aren't free," and urged the government to free political prisoners.

In an article on Cubadebate.ru, the longtime Cuban leader called Obama's comments "terse and evasive."

"I want to remind him of a basic ethical principal concerning Cuba: any injustice, any crime at any time has no justification," he said. "The cruel blockade against the Cuban people costs lives, and results in suffering."

Castro's article, entitled "The Secret Summit," said virtually nothing of substance emerged from the talks in Port of Spain. He said journalists only reported basic facts, and that TV coverage "failed to convey the tone of voices, glances, and expressions on faces" of participants, and did not include any live debates.

"A secret summit is worse than silent cinema," he wrote.

At the summit, Latin American leaders encouraged Obama to end the embargo, which has been a major handicap for the Cuban economy for almost half a century.

Last week the U.S. leader made small steps toward easing the embargo, lifting restrictions on money transfers and travel to Cuba for Cuban Americans.

Several leaders, including Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a prominent critic of the United States, said Obama had shown a more receptive approach to negotiations with Latin America.

International media focused on Obama's cordial exchange with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in front of the TV cameras.

Responding to criticism from Republicans over the encounter, Obama said: "It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States."

At the close of the summit, Obama said: "What we showed here is that we can make progress when we're willing to break free from some of the stale debates and old ideologies that have dominated and distorted the debate in this hemisphere for far too long."

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