May 22, 2008 / 12:06 AM / 12 years ago

U.S. official says Cuba embargo successful

HAVANA (Reuters) - A U.S. trade embargo in place 46 years against Cuba has been successful, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said on Wednesday, even though the island’s communist government remains.

A man stands next to cocks sitting on a cage at a farmer's market in Havana February 23, 2008. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

Gutierrez said the embargo, imposed in 1962 to undermine the government of Fidel Castro, deprived Cuban leaders of resources they would have used for “ill-focused goals.”

“The purpose of the embargo is to deny resources to a regime who is clearly anti-American, who doesn’t like our country, and in that regard the embargo has been extremely successful,” Gutierrez said in a phone interview from Washington.

He spoke to Reuters after President George W. Bush announced the United States would let its citizens send cell phones to Cubans, in a small crack in the embargo that appeared to be a political tit-for-tat for recent Cuban reforms.

Last month, Cubans were allowed for the first time to buy cell phones as part of reforms President Raul Castro has initiated since replacing his ailing older brother in February.

But Gutierrez said Bush was opposed to anything that would weaken the embargo.

“The policy in Cuba is designed to create changes, and anything that strengthens the regime is something (Bush) is not in favor of,” he said.

“We think what really needs to happen in Cuba is for that system to change,” said Gutierrez, who is a Cuban-American.

Many Cubans and Cuban-Americans have urged greater easing of the embargo to allow more family visits and higher remittances from the United States.

But Gutierrez said the White House does not want to deliver more money to the Cuban government by loosening current restrictions that limit Cuban-Americans to one visit to the island every three years.

“It becomes a revenue stream for the regime. We understand that people like to go down (to Cuba) more often,” he said.

“A cell phone, by the way, will help families at least communicate over the phone,” said Gutierrez.

Editing by Vicki Allen

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