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In a letter to Hugo Chavez that the Venezuelan president read at the close of a summit of leftist Latin American nations Monday, Fidel Castro said the U.S. "empire is on the offensive again" in the region.

He continued saying President Barack Obama's "friendly smile and African-American face" are hiding Washington's sinister intentions for Latin America -- more evidence of a new cooling in U.S.-Cuba relations after a thaw had seemed possible just months ago.

He blamed Washington for a military coup that toppled leftist President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in June and criticized a U.S. agreement with Colombia that allows U.S. troops greater access to seven of that country's military bases.

The 83-year-old former Cuban president largely praised Obama when he first took office, calling him intelligent, sincere, serene, courageous, honest and well-meaning.

But Castro has turned on Obama, saying in an opinion piece in state media last week that the U.S. president's acceptance of the Nobel Prize after deciding to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan was "a cynical act."

His letter to Chavez is the latest sign that reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba isn't likely soon.


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