MEXICO CITY — With shouts of “Viva Fidel!” Cuban President Raúl Castro said Saturday that the easing of tensions with the United States did not mean he was going to jettison the communist ideals that his brother brought to the island a half-century ago.
In a speech to the Cuban parliament, during which he honored the return of three Cuban spies who were part of a prisoner swap with the United States, Castro thanked President Obama for his decision to reestablish diplomatic relations.
But he reiterated the principles of the communist revolution and suggested that change would not come quickly to Cuba....
With his decision last week, Obama swept away a decades-long grudge held not just by the aging communist regime but by some of the staunchest American allies in the region.
“This makes it so much easier for the U.S. to relate to its allies and friends in the region,” said Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas.
The new U.S. policy also weakens the position of one of the most vocal American critics in the region, President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. His country has been Cuba’s biggest supporter, sending it millions of barrels of oil. But falling oil prices have led to a severe economic crisis in Venezuela, causing rising inflation and shortages of food and other basic necessities and reducing the country’s influence in the region. And now Cuba has reached a deal with the Americans.
“It totally marginalizes Maduro and his government,” Sabatini said. “Clearly, Raúl Castro is diversifying his assets and his options....”