Raul Castro says hopes too high for Obama
Fri Jan 2, 2009 10:49pm EST
HAVANA (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama appears to be an honest and sincere man, but his election has awakened "excessive hopes" that the United States will change, Cuban President Raul Castro said in a television interview broadcast on Friday.
Castro repeated previous assertions that he is open to talks at any time with Obama, who takes office on January 20, but said he is not desperate to do so.
Obama has said he wants to ease the 46-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and meet with Cuban leaders as first steps toward normalizing relations with the Communist-run island 90 miles off U.S. shores.
"Now there is a president who has raised hopes in many parts of the world -- I think excessive hopes," Castro said in an interview on state-run television.
"Because even if he's an honest man -- and I believe he is -- a sincere man -- and I believe he is -- one man alone cannot change the destiny of a country and much less the United States," said Castro, who replaced his ailing older brother Fidel Castro as president in February.
"I hope I'm mistaken in my assessment. I hope Mr. Obama has success," he said.
"He can do much, he can take positive steps, he can put forth more just ideas, he can put a stop to the tendency of almost all U.S. presidents to have their war, or wars," he said.
The interview was taped on December 31, a day before Castro led celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the revolution that put his brother in power and turned Cuba to Communism at the height of the Cold War.
In a speech on Thursday, he spoke in harsh terms about U.S. treatment of Cuba and said the island can expect 50 years more of "incessant struggle" with an "enemy" that "will never cease to be aggressive, treacherous and dominant."
In the interview, he said Cuba would talk with the United States whenever the U.S. wants, but only as equals, "without the smallest shadow over our sovereignty."
"We're willing to do it when they say, without intermediaries, directly, but we're in no hurry, we're not desperate," Castro said.
(Reporting by Jeff Franks)