HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticized President Obama for expanding the war effort in Afghanistan, but Castro also mildly praised Obama's domestic initiatives, such as health care reform.
Fidel Castro says taking on the Taliban is a mistake, noting the Taliban "sank the Soviet Union."
In an essay published Tuesday in Cuba's state-run newspaper, Granma, Castro said drawing American troops away from Iraq to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan is a mistake, saying the Taliban in Afghanistan "sank the Soviet Union."
Still, Castro said he was astonished by U.S. news reports of declining popularity for Obama. Castro blamed "traditional [U.S.] racism" for dampening reform efforts, including health care revisions.
The former Cuban leader commonly writes "reflections" in state media, using them to comment on international issues, and he often condemns U.S. foreign policy.
This weeks' commentary coincides with the visit of former U.S. presidential candidate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Richardson, who was nominated for commerce secretary in the Obama administration but withdrew, is in the Cuban capital this week on a trade mission "designed to capitalize on potential agricultural and cultural partnerships between Cuba and New Mexico," according to the governor's Web site.
Despite the near half-century trade embargo, the U.S. Treasury Department permits U.S. states to sell agricultural, medical and IT products in Cuba on a cash basis, it said.
Richardson, who has already met the former Cuban president -- negotiating the release of three political prisoners in Cuba in 1996 - is known for his diplomatic resume, including high-level talks with North Korea, Sudan, Iraq and others.
The visit comes after the recent release of a new video and photo of Fidel Castro, revealing an apparently healthier-looking man than in previous images.
It was the first video of Castro broadcast in 14 months.
Castro, who came to power in 1959, underwent abdominal surgery in 2006.
The Cuban leader ceded the presidency to his younger brother, Raul, but has retained leadership of the Communist Party, the only legal political party in Cuba.
Earlier this month, Cuban President Raul Castro said in a speech to parliament that Havana is ready and willing to start a dialogue with Washington, but warned that political and regime change are not up for negotiation.
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