NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. (photo: Guardian UK)
28 August 13
Former president responds to reports in Kommersant newspaper that Cuba bowed to US pressure over NSA leaks
idel Castro has criticised a claim in a Russian newspaper that his country buckled to US pressure and blocked the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden from travelling through Cuba to exile in Latin America.
Castro, who ceded the Cuban presidency to his brother, Raúl, in 2006, and is rarely seen or heard from in public, said the article in the Kommersant newspaper on Monday was a lie and libell
Castro, in a column carried by official media on various international issues, from Syria and Egypt to robots doing police work and Snowden, praised Snowden and out condemned US spying as repugnant.
"It is obvious that the United States will always try to pressure Cuba ... but not for nothing has (Cuba) resisted and defended itself without a truce for 54 years and will continue to do so for as long as necessary," Castro wrote.
Snowden, who is wanted in the US for leaking details of US government surveillance programmes, had planned to fly to Havana from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport a day after arriving from Hong Kong, on 23 June.
But Snowden, who eventually accepted a year's asylum in Russia after spending nearly six weeks at Sheremetyevo, did not show up for the flight, although he had been allocated a seat.
Citing several sources, including one close to the US state department, Kommersant said the reason was that at the last minute Cuba had told officials to stop Snowden from boarding the Aeroflot flight.
It said Cuba had changed its mind after pressure by the US, which wants to try Snowden on espionage charges.
Castro, in his column, criticised Kommersant as a well-known "counter-revolutionary" and "mercenary" newspaper.
"I admire the courageous and just declarations of Snowden," Castro wrote.
"In my opinion, he has rendered a service to the world, having revealed the repugnantly dishonest policy of the powerful empire that is lying and deceiving the world," Castro continued.
According to the Russian newspaper, Havana informed Moscow that it would refuse to let the Aeroflot plane land if Snowden was on board.
Castro did not speculate as to why Snowden skipped the Aeroflot flight.