Posted on Wed, Oct. 24, 2007
BY WILL WEISSERT
Ailing leader Fidel Castro rejected President Bush's call for change in
Cuba even before it was delivered Wednesday, saying Havana's communist
government and citizens -- not Washington -- will determine their
''Bush is obsessed with Cuba,'' wrote Castro, who addressed the U.S.
leader directly in one of his recent essays: ``Don't attack others,
don't threaten humanity with nuclear war. People will defend themselves,
and in that inferno we will all perish.''
In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday, in his first stand-alone
address on Cuba in four years, Bush looks ahead to a post-Castro Cuba
where people choose a representative government and enjoy basic
freedoms, with support from a broad international coalition.
Castro, who temporarily ceded power to his constitutional successor and
brother Raúl in July 2006 after undergoing intestinal surgery, has not
been seen in public for more than a year, and it is unclear whether he
will return to power.
Washington's decades-old economic embargo on Cuba chokes off most trade
between the two countries. Bush will ask Congress to maintain the
embargo, which has come under scrutiny and calls for reassessment from
some lawmakers. By U.S. law -- the Helms-Burton Act -- the embargo is
not supposed to be lifted as long as Fidel or Raúl Castro is in power.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque scheduled a news conference
for Wednesday afternoon to respond to the Bush speech.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, invited a small group of government critics
and dissidents to view the speech at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.