Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday with a newspaper column repeating assertions that the U.S. owes socialist Cuba “numerous millions of dollars” for damages caused by its decades-long embargo.
The brief essay came a day before an historic moment in U.S.-Cuba relations: Secretary of State John Kerry is to raise the Stars and Stripes over a restored American Embassy in Havana, though the economic embargo legally remains in effect.
“Equality for all citizens to access health, education, work, food, security, culture, science and welfare, that is to say, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, plus those that emanate from our dreams of justice and equality for the people of our world, this is what I wish for all,” Castro wrote, Telesur reported.
“Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations,” the former dictator continued, according to NPR.
Cuba lost out on US $117 billion between 1960 and 2014 due to the U.S. economic blockade on the country, according to the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“In the U.N. General Assembly we calculated the cost of the blockade was approximately US $117 billion,” said executive secretary of ECLAC, Alicia Barcena.
However, this year Cuba’s economy has grown by almost 4 percent, according to the U.N. body.
The rapprochement after 54 years of formal diplomatic estrangement was engineered by Fidel’s brother Raul, who took over Cuba’s presidency after the elder Castro suffered a health crisis in 2006.
Fidel Castro did not directly mention the restored relations, though he made several critical references to the U.S.
He said Washington owes Cuba indemnifications “that rise to numerous millions of dollars” for damage caused by the embargo.
He also repeated his criticism of the U.S. decision to stop swapping dollars for gold in 1971, a stand shared with some conservative economists. Castro has said in the past that such a move left the dollar alone as the world’s measure of value for currencies.
Castro came to power in 1959 following a revolution. Relations with the United States were broken in 1961 as Castro led Cuba rapidly into a socialist model allied with the Soviet Union.