The US trade embargo on Cuba should be lifted “definitively” following the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro, French president Francois Hollande has said.
The embargo was introduced in the 1960s as punishment for communist Cuba’s support for the Soviet Union and is still in place more than 50 years later.
The policy makes it difficult for Cuban people to access basic goods such as toilet paper and shampoo, and has been criticised by human rights groups for being overly punitive.
Mr Hollande said during a summit in Madagascar of French-speaking nations: “Even if I have repeatedly denounced human rights abuses in Cuba, I have always believed that the embargo was an unacceptable, unilateral decision.
“I want, on the occasion of the death of Fidel Castro, to again insist that the embargo that punishes Cuba should be lifted definitively. Cuba should be fully regarded as a partner in the international community.”
“France always sees Cuba as a partner,” he said, and “has always challenged the embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba.”
The French president had earlier described Mr Castro as a “great figure of the 20th Century” who “embodied the Cuban revolution, in the hopes it had raised then in the disillusionment it caused.”
The revolutionary leader was known for “representing Cubans’ proud rejection of foreign domination”, he added.
Mr Hollande visited Cuba last year and met with both Mr Castro and his brother Raul, the country’s current president.
During the trip he said France would do everything it could to ensure “the measures which have so badly harmed Cuba’s development can finally be repealed”.
President Obama has begun the process of restarting diplomatic ties between Cuba and the US but the trade embargo remains largely in place.
The policy means Cuba is increasingly reliant on countries such as Venezuela and China for its energy and resource needs.
Mr Castro died late on Friday at the age of 90 after years of ill-health. The revolutionary was one of the leaders of Cuba’s 1953-1959 revolution and first served as the country’s prime minister and then as its president from 1976 to 2008, before being succeeded by Raul.
His death divided opinion, with some hailing a socialist icon and others criticising Mr Castro’s record of human rights abuses.
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