Fidel Castro breaks silence, says he backs Cuba-U.S. thaw

HAVANA — Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro ended his long silence over his country’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with the United States, writing that he backs the negotiations even though he distrusts politics in Washington.

The comments were the first by the 88-year-old revolutionary leader on the talks with the U.S. since the historic Dec. 17 declaration that the countries would move to restore ties broken more than a half century ago.

“I don’t trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts,” he wrote in a letter to a student federation read at the University of Havana. It also appeared in Communist Party newspaper Granma.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesA double-decker bus filled with tourists turns onto the historic Maelcon oceanfront drive last Saturday in Havana.

“We will always defend co-operation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries,” he wrote.

Two weeks ago, Fidel Castro sent a letter to soccer legend Diego Maradona to quash rumours of his death. At the time, it was the first reported word from Castro in nearly three months. The letter was read on Venezuela state television network Telesur.

A serious illness forced Castro to step down from duties as president, handing over leadership to his younger brother Raul.

The speculation about Fidel Castro’s health had been prompted in part by his failure to comment on the historic U.S.-Cuban declaration in December.

The United States and Cuba held high-level talks last week in Havana. The latest statement from Fidel was dated Jan. 26.

Cuba’s president “has taken the pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and the powers given to him by the National Assembly the Communist Party of Cuba,” Castro said in the statement.

His silence had led to speculation over his opinion of his brother’s rapprochement with the United States.