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Castro blames Trump for 'setback' in US-Cuba relations

Trump announced tightened rules for Americans traveling to Cuba and reaffirmed existing US trade embargo last month.

Donald Trump's hardline stance towards Cuba marks "a setback" in its relations with the United States after ties was gradually restored in 2015, President Raul Castro said.

Castro criticised Trump's partial rollback of his predecessor Barack Obama's rapprochement with the communist island in comments made less than a week before the second anniversary of Havana embassy's reopening in Washington on July 20.

"The announcements made by the current president ... mean a setback in bilateral relations," Castro said in remarks, broadcast on state television, at the closing of the first session of Cuba's Parliament on Friday.

Castro's remarks came after Trump in June - standing before a crowd of anti-Castro activists in Miami's Little Havana - announced tightened rules for Americans travelling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing US trade embargo.

The Cuban president called the new measures a toughening of the US embargo against the island, imposed since 1962, saying they evoked "an old and hostile rhetoric that characterised the Cold War".

In his first public riposte to Trump since the latter unveiled his new Cuba policy last month, Castro told the national assembly that any attempt to topple the revolution would fail, as it had under 11 previous US presidents.

"We reject the manipulation of the topic of human rights against Cuba that can be proud of much in this area, and does not need to receive lessons from the United States nor anyone."

Castro said Cuba remained open to negotiating matters of bilateral interest with the US, sticking to the relatively conciliatory tone it has struck of late.

"Cuba and the United States can cooperate and live side by side, respecting their differences," he said. "But no one should expect that for this, one should have to make concessions inherent to one's sovereignty and independence."

Castro said Trump had clearly been ill-informed about Cuba's history with the US and Cubans' patriotism.

Castro has seven months to go before he steps down as president, although he will remain head of the Communist Party, in which political power is vested in Cuba. His generation, which has ruled Cuba since the 1959 revolution, is dying.


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