Cuban Foreign Minister Says U.S Relations Won't Improve Under Bush

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

( - Cuba's Foreign Minister predicted Monday that diplomatic relations between the communist nation and the United States will not improve under President-elect George W. Bush.

"We're not optimistic about better relations with the United States although we are open to them. We don't hate the United States, and we don't believe they are the reason we are suffering," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Roque told reporters in Athens, Greece, where he is on an official visit.

Roque said "right-wing Cubans in Florida" were to blame for Cuba's isolation.

"I'm not optimistic due to the extreme right-wing lobby (in Florida). These people helped Bush get elected in Florida and they are asking him to tighten the American position on Cuba," Roque said.

President-elect Bush said several times during the presidential campaign that he envisions no change in America's hard-line policy toward Cuba unless the communist nation holds free elections and releases political prisoners.

Roque gave President Clinton credit for a recent thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States, and he said such a trend could continue only if the trade embargo is lifted.

"But for the embargo to be lifted, something has to happen now. This would be good for the people of Cuba, U.S. businessmen and Cubans living in Florida who now cannot visit their families," Roque said.

Meanwhile, the Castro government maintains that Cuba is prepared to survive yet another U.S. administration.

In an editorial broadcast over the government-run Radio Havana on Friday night, the Castro government said Cuba and its people are "consistently underestimated by the powers that be."

"None of Cuba's enemies had taken into account the political, economic and social achievements of the Cuban revolution in its first three decades. That was also a mistake made by nine successive U.S. governments which maintained an irrational economic and political battle against the island which has lasted 40 years," the Radio Havana editorial said.

"In a few days," the editorial continued, "the next U.S. government will be sworn in. And it appears that it will continue to allow the country to be manipulated by a small, but powerful anti-Cuba mafia based in the state of Florida."

The editorial concluded, "Cuba is prepared to meet any new aggressions and difficulties that are placed in its path. It is important to remember that the Cuba of today is not the Cuba of 1959. The Cuban people, shamelessly blockaded, accosted and defamed by their powerful enemies, today have more international prestige than their powerful northern neighbor which has been isolated by its antiquated anti-Cuba policies in the United Nations General Assembly and most international organizations and even by the American people themselves."