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Director of North America Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Josefina Vidal is photographed in Havana, Cuba Sept. 27/2001.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The following post is part of a new series that brings a fresh perspective to global news from our team of foreign correspondents

In Cuba's foreign ministry, Josefina Vidal has one of the most high-profile jobs, directing the North American Department. Fresh off a plane from New York where she attended the United Nations General Assembly, Ms. Vidal spoke to Sonia Verma about Cuba's challenges:

On Barack Obama

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"For three years in a row President Obama has issued a Presidential order that the sanctions be maintained. We are suffering and the Cuban population is suffering every day. Nothing has changed."

On dialogue with the U.S.

"As soon as the Obama administration took office we reminded the new American government about Cuba's position: We are ready to sit down with the United States to discuss every issue, every difference to advance towards normalization. We have submitted an agenda to the U.S. government. We haven't received a response from the United States government. The tone, however, is generally less tense and aggressive than it used to be."

On U.S. compensation

"We are demanding the U.S. compensate Cuba for the damages American policy has caused by the blockade and other damages caused to the Cuban people. It's hundreds of billions of dollars.

There are more than three thousand people that died because of policies encouraged by the United States government. The U.S. has money. They spend $20-million every year to support regime change programs in Cuba. And they spend $30-million to support radio and TV broadcasts in Cuba calling for regime change, so they have money. They have money."

On Fidel Castro

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"It seems he is doing fine. He is working. He's devoted to many issues. He visited the foreign ministry by surprise one Saturday in July. He stayed with us more than two hours talking about the books he's writing, his ideas and thoughts about curing international problems."

On Cuba's mistakes

"There were things that we were doing that we shouldn't continue. For example, we have many prohibitions and unnecessary regulations, such as for the selling of cars or the selling of private houses. There were many restrictions. The economy had to be made flexible."

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

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About the Author

Sonia Verma writes about foreign affairs for The Globe and Mail. Based in Toronto, she has recently covered economic change in Latin America, revolution in Egypt, and elections in Haiti. Before joining The Globe in 2009, she was based in the Middle East, reporting from across the region for The Times of London and New York Newsday. More

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