September 23, 2018 / 9:21 PM / 2 months ago

Cuba's new president makes first trip to old Cold War foe United States

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba’s new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, arrived in New York on Sunday for his first trip to the United States, where he will denounce the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on his country at the U.N. General Assembly, state-run media reported.

Newly elected Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel is seen during the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba, April 19, 2018. Desmond Boylan/Pool via Reuters - RC122AE17E50

Tensions have heightened between the Cold War foes after U.S. President Donald Trump tightened the embargo last year following the resumption of diplomatic relations under his predecessor, Barack Obama. Washington also alleged a series of health attacks had taken place on U.S. diplomats in Havana.

The Cuban government has said no attacks occurred and that the Trump administration was using whatever did occur - if indeed anything did - as a pretext to escalate its hostile stance on the Communist-run island.

Diaz-Canel, who took over the presidency from his mentor, Raul Castro, in April, will address the UNGA Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on Monday and the General Assembly on Wednesday, according to state-run outlet Cubadebate.

At that session, Cuba will present for the 27th year running a resolution calling for the end of the U.S. trade embargo on the island nation.

“We bring the voice of Cuba that above all comes to denounce the abnormal policy of the blockade, a policy that has already failed, that will continue to fail, and that is the longest blockade in the history of humanity,” Diaz-Canel said on arrival, according to the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

Diaz-Canel’s statements on the United States, as on other political matters, have so far largely echoed those of his predecessor, who remains head of the Communist Party until 2021.

The non-binding U.N. resolution urges the United States to repeal the embargo on Cuba as soon as possible. Only the U.S. Congress can lift the full embargo, put in place more than 50 years ago.

Through the week, Diaz-Canel will meet with other foreign leaders, as well as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. supporters of engagement with Cuba and members of the Cuban-American community, Cubadebate said. He will also speak on Wednesday night at New York’s historic Riverside Church.

Diaz-Canel made his first trip abroad as president to Cuba’s main ally, Venezuela, in May.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Peter Cooney

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