(original title: US ratifies embargo despite Castro exit)
By Henry Hamman in Miami | Financial Times
The US economic embargo of Cuba will remain in place despite the de facto transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl, secretary of commerce Carlos Gutierrez has told Miami’s Cuban-Americans.
Critics of the embargo, which has been in force for four decades, in the US and elsewhere have said the US could reconsider its embargo in the light of the effective departure of Fidel Castro because of illness.
But with the Bush administration soon to enter its last year in office and Republicans facing an increasingly restive conservative base, the prospect of a policy change that could anger Florida Cuban-American voters is unlikely.
“Freedom will not happen by going from one dictator to another,” Mr Gutierrez said, speaking at a conference on the future of Cuba attended largely by opponents of the Castro government. Mr Gutierrez, a Cuban native who has responsibilities for Cuba policy in the Bush administration, also predicted that Raúl Castro would be unable to retain power in Cuba.
“I don’t believe Raúl Castro can keep it together. I don’t believe Raúl Castro believes he can keep it together. He doesn’t have the skills, the talent, the brains,” he said.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Gutierrez said he saw no possibility of an end to the embargo as long as either of the Castro brothers remained in power.
Mr Gutierrez said the Castro government was inherently anti-American.
He rejected any suggestion that US policy was inconsistent in seeking broad economic co-operation with the communist governments of Vietnam and China while refusing trade with communist Cuba.
“The governments in China and Vietnam have shown a real willingness to establish better relations with the US, relations of mutual respect, of partnership, where we can have a win-win situation. I wouldn’t consider China or Vietnam an enemy,” he said.
Mr Gutierrez’s appearance in Miami came a day before Venezuelans voted on proposals that would give expanded powers to President Hugo Chávez, a Castro ally and US antagonist. But Mr Gutierrez said he expected Latin American support for free trade agreements with the US to continue despite signs the region was shifting left.