Castro calls Obama speech "formula for hunger"

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Monday called Democrat Barack Obama the candidate most advanced on social issues running for U.S. president but said his speech on Cuba last week was a “formula for hunger.”

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) waves to supporters during a rally campaign event at the Old San Juan in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 24, 2008. REUTERS/Ana Martinez

In one of his periodic newspaper columns published in Communist Party newspaper Granma, Castro said he had “no personal rancor” toward Obama, but “if I defended him I would do a huge favor for his adversaries.”

Obama, speaking before an influential Cuban-American group in Miami, said Cuba deprived its people of civil liberties and free elections, and vowed to maintain, with modifications, a 46-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the island.

Obama has called for lifting restrictions on travel to Cuba and the amount of money people in the United States can send to relatives in Cuba.

“Obama’s speech can translate into a formula of hunger for the nation (Cuba), the remittances like alms and the visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable lifestyle that he sustains.

“How is the very grave problem of the food crisis going to be confronted? Grains must be distributed among human beings, domestic animals and fish, which year by year are smaller and more scarce in the over-exploited seas,” Castro said. “It’s not easy to produce meat from gas and oil.”

“Obama overestimates the possibilities of technology in the struggle against climate change, although he is more conscious than (President George W.) Bush of the risks and the little time available,” he said.

Obama “without doubt is, from the social and human point, the most advanced candidate” running for the U.S. presidency, Castro said. But he accused him of reviving the Monroe Doctrine, which stated in 1823 the United States would not permit European countries to further colonize or interfere in the Americas.

Last week, Castro blasted Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain in a newspaper column for their criticisms of the Cuban government. McCain, he said, showed why he finished near the bottom of his class in college.

Castro, 81 and not fully recovered from intestinal surgery in July 2006, took power in a 1959 revolution but stepped aside in February and was succeeded as president by his younger brother Raul Castro. He is still head of the Communist Party and said to be involved in governing.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Jackie Frank