By IAN PHILLIPS and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Cuba’s foreign minister said Tuesday that he believes improvements in relations with the United States are irreversible despite the Trump administration’s hardening of the embargo on the island.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla told The Associated Press that while the U.S. administration has cut off most communication with Cuba and is trying to pressure the communist government by restricting the flow of oil, progress made under former U.S. President Barack Obama has not been undone.
“I would describe myself as extremely optimistic,” Rodríguez Parrilla said. “There’s a historical trend that’s irreversible.”
He said relations between the two countries would never return to the way they were before December 2014, when Obama and then-Cuban President Raúl Castro declared that they would reestablish diplomatic relations.
“There have been levels of communication and mutual familiarity between the peoples of both countries that are irreversible,” Rodríguez Parrilla said.
He said Cuba was prepared for a worsening of tensions during the presidential campaign season because the Trump administration believes that Cuban Americans in South Florida support a hard line on the island.
He called that an “erroneous political calculation.”
“I believe it’s proven that the majority of Cubans in Florida support the advances in the normalization of relations and the lifting of the blockade, and the younger they are, the more they support it,” Rodríguez Parrilla said.
He also says Cuba is finding ways to buy oil despite U.S. attempts to stop it by imposing sanctions on shipping firms and threatening third countries, insurance firms and others with retaliation for helping Cuba obtain petroleum.
Oil shortages led to cutbacks in government fuel consumption and distribution last month, resulting in long lines at gas stations and reductions in public transport.
“We’ve increased our ability to transport [oil]. The way the world works today makes it impossible for the United States to impede the arrival of oil tankers to Cuba,” Rodríguez Parrilla said. “There are ways to do it, and I’m sure that the situation that we’ve had in September specifically… that will be overcome in coming weeks.”