Cuban President calls for strengthening defense and economy in response to Trump threats

A Cuban gives the thumbs up from his balcony decorated with the US and Cuban flags in Havana, on January 16, 2015. The United States will ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba on Friday, marking the first concrete steps towards restoring normal ties with the Cold War-era foe since announcing a historic rapprochement. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL Lage (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)

CUBA (VOP TODAY NEWS) —  Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel has accused US President Donald Trump’s administration of making relations between the two countries the worst in decades and calling on Cubans to strengthen defense and the economy.

In a speech at the end of the parliament session on Saturday, Diaz Canell said the United States was carrying out a campaign of “stifling financial repression that makes importing commodities and basic resources very difficult.”

The recession of the Cuban economy in recent years, coupled with the outbreak of the situation in Venezuela, has led to a reduction in government entities using fuel, energy and shortages of commodities such as bread, chicken and eggs.

The strengthening of Washington’s sanctions during the Trump era further made it difficult for Cuba, which is in dire straits, to obtain loans from international institutions.

On Saturday, Cuban Economy Minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez also called on the government to step up austerity measures and seek to unify import alternatives as foreign exchange earnings plummet and the difficulty of attracting investment.

Cuba relies on imports directly or indirectly for most of its production and consumption, including fuel and food, and buys what it needs in hard currency from exports and loans.

The Trump administration says Cuba is responsible for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro remaining in power and imposing new sanctions on Cuba, which is already subject to a paralyzed trade embargo, eroding relations between Washington and Havana under President Barack Obama.

“The situation means that we have two priorities: to prepare for our defense and economic battle at the same time,” Diaz Canel said.

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