As Cuba began military manoeuvres on Friday that are aimed at making the country ready to repel a US invasion, a war of words erupted between the two countries centred around some injudicious remarks by President Barack Obama last week.
Josefina Vidal, the head of the Foreign Ministry's North American affairs division, sharply criticized Obama for suggesting that Cuba was stuck in the past, saying the only anachronistic element of the relationship is Washington's half-century-old economic embargo.
Josefina said Obama was poorly informed if he thought Cuba had not changed in recent years (no one who knows the island could possibly disagree with her on that one). She said her country has always been willing to negotiate improved relations with the U.S.
"It's unfortunate that President Obama continues to be poorly advised and ill-informed about the Cuban reality, as well as the sentiments of his own people who desire normalization of our relationship," Vidal said in a statement sent to foreign media on the island.
She said Cuba was "changing and advancing," a reference to economic and social policies enacted in recent years under President Raul Castro.
In an interview with the Spanish news channel Telemundo broadcast last Wednesday, Obama said his administration is open to better ties with Cuba but that "it's got to be a two-way street."
He said Cuban jails were "still filled" with political prisoners and that the island's leaders are clinging to a failed model.
"It's time to join the 21st century," he said. "It's one thing to have cars from the 1950s. It's another thing when your whole political ideology is 50 years or 60 years old and it's been proven not to work."
Now anyone seriously wishing to improve ties with Cuba would not have chosen those words. Nothing could be more insulting or more telling of a lack of real interest in bettering the relationship. I mean how would President Obama like it if Cuba were to tell him that he presides over a politcal system that is over 200 years old and is proving daily that it does not work?