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Fidel Castro Turns 89; Says US Has Hefty Debt to Cuba

FILE - Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, April 19, 2015.
FILE - Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, April 19, 2015.

Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday with a newspaper column repeating assertions that the U.S. owes socialist Cuba "numerous millions of dollars" for damages caused by its decades-long embargo.

The brief essay came a day before an historic moment in U.S.-Cuba relations: Secretary of State John Kerry is to raise the Stars and Stripes over a restored American Embassy in Havana, though the economic embargo legally remains in effect.

The rapprochement after 54 years of formal diplomatic estrangement was engineered by Fidel's brother Raul, who took over Cuba's presidency after the elder Castro suffered a health crisis in 2006.

Fidel Castro did not directly mention the restored relations, though he made several critical references to the U.S.

He said Washington owes Cuba indemnifications "that rise to numerous millions of dollars" for damage caused by the embargo.

He also repeated his criticism of the U.S. decision to stop swapping dollars for gold in 1971, a stand shared with some conservative economists. Castro has said in the past that such a move left the dollar alone as the world's measure of value for currencies.

Castro came to power in 1959 following a revolution. Relations with the United States were broken in 1961 as Castro led Cuba rapidly into a socialist model allied with the Soviet Union.