Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a frequent critic of the United States, congratulated the Castro brothers Friday on Cuba`s rapprochement with Washington, but warned that the embargo on the island would remain for a long time.
This month`s historic announcement that the United States and Cuba were restoring diplomatic relations after half a century of hostility undercuts the stridently anti-American stance Maduro has adopted as his country slides into a deepening economic crisis.
Venezuela had long found in its close ally Cuba a comrade in its anti-American diatribe, but the dynamic has now changed.
"Much more than good news is the real possibility that the United States recognizes the sacred right of Cuba to be free and sovereign," Maduro said in a letter to President Raul Castro published by Cuban media.
"There is still a long way to go before Washington will recognize that we are no longer its backyard, to end the criminal blockade" of Cuba, in force since 1962, Maduro added.
As part of the agreement, the United States released three Cuban agents it had held since 1998 who were part of the so-called Cuba Five, while Havana released an unidentified spy and US contractor Alan Gross.
"We celebrate with infinite joy the completion of the final release of the Cuban Five, thus closing one of the many chapters of the United States` interventionist and criminal policy," Maduro wrote.
Castro took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006.
Venezuela has been Cuba`s main political and economic ally since the late President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.