- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2017

In the Castro regime’s first response since President Trump announced new curbs on relations with the island, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez accused Mr. Trump in a press conference Monday of returning to Cold War policies and insisted Havana will not be bullied.

Talking with reporters on a visit to Austria, Mr. Rodriguez said the U.S. is in no position to “lecture us on human rights and democracy” and that Mr. Trump’s policy reversal marked “a grotesque spectacle straight from the Cold War.”

He said Washington was employing a “double standard in the treatment of human rights,” asserting that the Trump administration’s treatment toward Cuba goes against the Mr. Trump’s own “America First” foreign policy.

Economic and humanitarian changes on the island will be determined by the Cubans as a sovereign people, Mr. Rodriguez said, adding that Cuba wouldn’t send American fugitives back to the U.S., which Mr Trump said was a necessary condition to begin renegotiating the relationship between the two countries.

Cuba will not make concessions that harm its sovereignty,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We have never done in the history of the revolution.”

Addressing a cheering crowd of Cuban-Americans in Florida last week, Mr. Trump kept a campaign promise by announcing new business and travel restrictions on Cuba, although he did not break formal diplomatic relations or cut off all commerce — both of which were part of former President Barack Obama’s outreach to Cuba after a half-century of a U.S. embargo.

Mr. Trump said the opening to Havana had not improved human rights on the island and had only “enrich(ed) the Cuban regime.”

Mr. Rodriguez said Mr. Trump’s policy changes amounted to stripping Cuban citizens of their own rights.

He also argued that cutting back investments and trade with Cuba was not even in the best interest of the United States. He cited a U.S. poll that said that 73 percent of Americans agree with completely raising the economic blockade.

The Cuban diplomat, whose remarks were broadcast live back in Cuba, was at times bitingly personal in his criticism, noting at one point Mr. Trump had won the 2016 election despite losing the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“That’s democracy in the United States,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

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