HAVANA (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro blasted the U.S. government for warmongering on Tuesday with the same kind of rhetoric he used half a century ago at the outset of his ideological feud with the United States.
Castro, 84, who reappeared in July after a four-year absence due to a serious illness that forced him to hand power to his brother, spoke to a crowd of 20,000 people in front of Cuba’s former presidential palace on the 50th anniversary of the creation of Cuba’s neighborhood vigilance system.
Castro quoted extensively from a speech delivered at the same location on September 28, 1960 in which he spoke of Cuba’s moral superiority and the cowardice of the United States, whose leaders he said had “long fangs.”
On Tuesday, he warned of an apocalyptic future of nuclear war and environmental destruction with capitalism and its chief proponent, the United States, as the primary culprits.
“The world has to know — if you see the theories they have, the plans they have and the military doctrines they have, it would make your blood run cold,” said Castro, who wore green military clothing and a cap with a silver star on its front.
“Everything they do leads to war,” said Castro, who spoke for more than an hour, first from a prepared speech, then in impromptu remarks.
Castro frequently attacks the United States in columns he writes for state-run media, but his harsh words on Tuesday contrasted with the more subdued criticisms in speeches by his younger brother and successor, President Raul Castro.
Long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations warmed a bit after U.S. President Barack Obama took office last year, but stalled after Cuba detained an American contractor in December on suspicion of espionage.
The elder Castro referred to Obama as “the little gentleman who’s there in the presidency” and said former President Harry Truman “must be in some place in hell” for ordering the dropping of nuclear bombs on Japan to end World War II.
He quoted Truman talking about the terrible nature of nuclear weapons, but also their usefulness.
Castro has become a crusader against nuclear weapons since emerging in July from four years of seclusion that followed surgery in 2006 from an intestinal illness that he said nearly killed him.
For the past few months, he has warned of the danger of nuclear war if the United States and Israel try to enforce international sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities.
In 1960, Castro created the “Committees for the Defense of the Revolution,” or CDRs, to quell internal dissent that smoldered after he took power in 1959 and began transforming Cuba to a communist state.
The CDRs consist of neighborhood watchers who keep an eye out for anti-government activity and help conduct government campaigns such as vaccination drives and hurricane evacuation.
The government trumpets them as a great social service and the bastion against subversive activities by the U.S., but many Cubans view them as repressive.
Mixed among his anti-U.S. comments, Castro alluded at one point to Cuba’s economic problems, referring to “errors committed in every revolution” that have led to declines in productivity.
President Castro, who took office officially in 2008, has unveiled plans to get 500,000 workers off state payrolls and triple the size of Cuba’s small private sector to stimulate the economy.
It was the biggest move toward the private sector since Fidel Castro nationalized all small businesses in 1968.
Editing by Anthony Boadle