Thursday, November 27, 2008
The Cuban leader has used the unlikely medium of an interview with the US actor and filmmaker Sean Penn to offer to meet president-elect Barack Obama.
Bar a brief handshake and exchange of words between Bill Clinton and Castro's brother and predecessor as president, Fidel, in 2000 the leaders of the two countries have not met since Fidel Castro grabbed power in 1959.
Penn, who also met another US bogeyman, Hugo Chavez, recently, asked Castro whether he would meet Obama in an interview before the US election, which was published yesterday. But it was only after he repeated the question a number of times that Castro answered it directly:
"We should meet in a neutral place. Perhaps we could meet at Guantánamo. We must meet and begin to solve our problems, and at the end of the meeting, we could give the president a gift...we could send him home with the American flag that waves over Guantánamo Bay."
Castro told Penn that the number one priority of a meeting would be to "normalise trade", with reference to the US embargo on Cuba.
"The only reason for the blockade is to hurt us. Nothing can deter the revolution. Let Cubans come to visit with their families. Let Americans come to Cuba," he said.
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