Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:20PM EDT
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Cuba's foreign minister on Wednesday said he welcomed a call by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to ease the U.S. embargo on the communist-ruled island.
In an opinion piece on Tuesday in The Miami Herald newspaper, the Illinois senator and top rival to front-runner Hillary Clinton proposed easing restrictions for Cuban exiles to travel to the island nation or send money home.
"These declarations appear to express the sentiment of the majority of the United States," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said when asked to comment on Obama's proposal.
Measures by the Bush administration to tighten the decades-old blockade were barbaric and an effort to "try to force our people to surrender through hunger and illness," Roque told reporters at a conference in Brazil's capital.
The vote of Cuban exiles has been considered key for U.S. presidential candidates to win Florida. The community is deeply divided over the trade embargo enforced by Washington since 1962.
"The blockade has to be dismantled and the rights of Cuba respected," Roque said.
In the race to contest the U.S. presidential election in November 2008, Obama trails Clinton with 26 percent support versus her 48 percent among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed on August 7.
Cuba's ailing leader Fidel Castro, age 81, handed over power to his brother Raul last year after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery.