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Cuba complains restrictions unchanged under Obama

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
  • Obama "has fallen far short of the expectations," Cuban foreign minister says
  • "The blockade has not changed a bit," Bruno Rodriguez tells reporters
  • Smaller steps could have been taken even if the embargo remained, he says

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuba accused U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday of failing to keep his promise of a new start with the communist island, saying that far from easing the U.S. trade embargo, his administration has tightened some restrictions.

"The president has fallen far short of the expectations created by his speeches," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at a news conference.

"The blockade has not changed a bit," he said, referring to the nearly 50-year-old embargo. "In fact, they have strengthened it when it comes to executing fines."

The comments came a day after a U.S. State Department official warned that Cubašs imprisonment of an American contractor is an "obstacle" to "certain measures" that Washington could take to improve bilateral relations.

Asked about the comment, Rodriguez declined to say anything on the case, but said the embargo is a unilateral action and "should be lifted unilaterally."

Alan Gross, a subcontractor working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was arrested in December. Cuba says he was distributing illegal satellite equipment to dissidents. Washington says he was trying to help Jewish communities hook up to the internet.

Rodriguez presented Cuba's annual report on the embargo ahead of a vote at the United Nations aimed at urging the United States to lift the Cold War-era restrictions. Last year, the nonbinding vote was backed by 187 countries and opposed by three.

Rodriguez said the embargo has caused $751 billion in losses over the past half a century.

He said that even without lifting the embargo, there are a number of actions Obama could have taken to ease restrictions, such as allowing more academic and cultural travel between the two countries.