HAVANA - Both the United States and Cuba would benefit if Washington would lift its longstanding trade embargo against the island, but US President Barack Obama has toughened the sanctions since taking office in 2009, a top Cuban official said on Thursday.

The embargo, fully in place since 1962, has done $108 billion in damage to the Cuba economy, but also has violated the constitutional rights of Americans and made a market of 11 million people off limits to US companies, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told reporters.

"The blockade is, without doubt, the principal cause of the economic problems of our country and the essential obstacle for (our) development," he said, using Cuba's term for the embargo.

"The blockade provokes suffering, shortages, difficulties that reach each Cuban family, each Cuban child," Rodriguez said.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger