May 22, 2008 / 6:37 PM / in 10 years

Cuba says Bush cellphone speech "ridiculous"

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba dismissed as “ridiculous” on Thursday President George W. Bush’s speech announcing that U.S. residents can send cellular telephones to Cuban relatives and said it was time for Bush to go.

“It was a decadent show, a speech irrelevant and cynical, an act of ridiculous propaganda,” Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque said in a press conference.

“Let him retire and leave the presidency,” he said.

Bush, who leaves office in January, opened a small crack in the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba on Wednesday to allow the sending of cell phones to family members on the island.

In his speech, he blasted the Cuban government, saying it had oppressed its people and describing recent reforms by President Raul Castro as “a cruel joke.”

“If Raul is serious about his so-called reforms, he will allow these phones to reach the Cuban people,” Bush said.

Perez Roque did not specifically discuss the cell phones, reserving his comments for Bush.

He called Bush “an exhausted leader” who was “packing his bags to go to his ranch in Texas -- discredited, a politician overwhelmingly rejected in his country.”

Perez Roque also called on the U.S. to explain the behavior of its top diplomat in Cuba, U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly, whom the Cuban government this week accused of delivering money from an anti-Castro exile in the U.S. to dissidents in Havana.

Since making the accusation on Monday, the government has shown videos and e-mails and played tapes of Parmly speaking with dissident Martha Beatriz Roque, recipient of the money from a group founded by Miami businessman Santiago Alvarez.

Alvarez, currently in U.S. jail on weapons charges, is a colleague of Luis Posada Carriles, accused of masterminding a 1976 Cubana Airlines jet bombing that killed 73 people.

The evidence, said Perez Roque, showed that Parmly and others at the Interests Section had broken laws in both countries by helping opponents of the Cuban government.

U.S. response so far has been that it is long-standing policy to give humanitarian assistance to Cubans, particularly those whose family members are considered political prisoners.

“We hope the United States ... takes the pertinent measures to correct the conduct of its diplomats in Cuba,” Perez Roque said.

Shortly before Cuba began its accusations, the U.S. said Parmly, after three years in Havana, would be leaving for a new posting.

Editing by Anthony Boadle

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