Fidel Castro says Obama "brave" on global warming

HAVANA (Reuters) - Former Cuban President Fidel Castro praised President Barack Obama on Wednesday for making a “brave gesture” by speaking out against global warming and saying developed nations had caused much of the damage.

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But Castro added, in a column published in Cuba’s state-run media, that Obama was part of a capitalist system that was “incompatible” with economic growth and a clean environment.

He was referring to Obama’s speech at a U.N. summit on global warming on Tuesday in which the U.S. president warned that failure to act on climate change, said to be caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, could create a catastrophe.

“Yes, the developed nations that caused much of the damage to our climate over the last century still have a responsibility to lead,” Obama said. But he said developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in coming decades must do their part as well.

Castro wrote in his column that “the President of the United States admitted the developed nations have caused most of the damage and must assume responsibility.”

“It was, without doubt, a brave gesture,” he said.

“No other (U.S. president) would have had the courage to say what he said,” said Castro, 83, who ruled Cuba for 49 years before ceding power last year to his brother Raul Castro, 78.

Castro added: “The problem now is that everything he (Obama) affirms is in contradiction with what the United States has done for 150 years.”

“The societies of consumption and squandering of material resources are incompatible with the idea of economic growth and a clean planet,” he said.

Castro, a fierce critic of U.S. presidents and western capitalism, has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in 2006, but he writes columns for state media and plays a behind-the-scenes role in government.

Promising a “new beginning” in U.S.-Cuban ties, Obama has slightly relaxed the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, but has called on Cuban leaders to respond by embracing democracy and freeing detained dissidents.

Raul Castro has said his government is ready to talk to Washington, but has ruled out any shift to capitalism.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Todd Eastham