By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, Associated Press
CAIMANERA, Cuba (AP) — A short distance from the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Thursday that the Trump administration’s hardening of the American embargo is failing to force concessions from his government.
“The Yankees keep squeezing but we keep resisting and winning,” he said. “We will fight back. They will never defeat us, and with everyone’s help we will keep advancing our ideas and the country will keep advancing.”
Díaz-Canel, 59, was making his first trip as president to the town of Caimanera, the closest point in Cuba to the U.S. naval base. The 45-square-mile base in the country’s far east has been under American control for 116 years despite the 1959 rise to power of a communist government dedicated to thwarting U.S. influence in Latin America.
President Donald Trump has been steadily tightening the six-decade trade embargo on Cuba in recent months, banning U.S. cruise ships and sanctioning ships bringing oil from Venezuela, among other measures. Trump administration officials say the goal is to cut revenue to the Cuban government and reduce its ability to help Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom the U.S. wants to overthrow.
The Cuban government’s chronic cash shortages appear to have become graver, and gas stations have been regularly running out of fuel, but there is no sign that Cuba has reduced ties with Venezuela or made any other concessions sought by the U.S.
Díaz-Canel began his visit to the town of about 10,000 people with a visit to a newly renovated 3D movie hall, a state-run restaurant and a series of other government projects in Caimanera before heading to the provincial capital, Guantánamo.
Since assuming power in April 2018, Díaz-Canel has made several dozen similar trips around Cuba to check on public services and infrastructure, accompanied by Cuba’s state-run media. Some international media were invited to cover Thursday’s trip in an unusual widening of access to Díaz-Canel who has had virtually no interactions with the foreign press since becoming president.
A short distance walk from the gates of the base, which officials said he did not plan to see, Díaz-Canel told the crowd that the U.S. appeared frustrated that a series of measures aimed at cutting tourism and petroleum to Cuba had not forced concessions from his government.
“They keep insisting on their failed policy of blockade and have hardened the blockade, hardened the financial persecution. New measures appear every week,” he said.
“They’ve gotten angry with Cuba after having a failed policy of blockading us for so many years.”