Cuban foreign minister: Warming with US is irreversible

Cuba's foreign minister says he believes improvements in relations with the United States are irreversible despite the Trump administration's hardening of the embargo on the island

NEW YORK -- Cuba's foreign minister said Tuesday that he believes improvements in relations with the United States are irreversible despite the Trump administration's hardening of the embargo on the island.

"I would describe myself as extremely optimistic," Rodríguez said. "There's a historical trend that's irreversible."

He said relations between the two countries would never return to the way they were before December 2014, when Obama and then-Cuban President Raúl Castro declared that they would reestablish diplomatic relations.

"There have been levels of communication and mutual familiarity between the peoples of both countries that are irreversible," Rodríguez said.

He called that an "erroneous political calculation."

"I believe it's proven that the majority of Cubans in Florida support the advances in the normalization of relations and the lifting of the blockade, and the younger they are, the more they support it," Rodríguez said. "Regardless, political moments are ephemeral. We have the political will to advance without delay."

He also says Cuba is finding ways to buy oil despite U.S. attempts to stop it by imposing sanctions on shipping firms and threatening third countries, insurance firms and others with retaliation for helping Cuba obtain petroleum.

Oil shortages led to cutbacks in government fuel consumption and distribution last month, resulting in long lines at gas stations and reductions in public transport.

"We've increased our ability to transport (oil). The way the world works today makes it impossible for the United States to impede the arrival of oil tankers in Cuba," Rodríguez said.

"We don't have a military presence in Venezuela. We don't participate or assist military, security or intelligence operations," Rodríguez said. "The relationship between Cuba and Venezuela is a pretext. ... They're attacking the successful (Cuban) political model, which works, which is a successful economic and social model, because it's withstood six decades despite the (U.S.) blockade."