Cuban President Raul Castro demanded on Wednesday that the United States return the U.S. base at Guantánamo Bay, lift the half-century trade embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two nations re-establish normal relations.
Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that Cuba and the United States are working toward full diplomatic relations but “if these problems aren’t resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement wouldn’t make any sense.”
Castro and President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 that they would move toward renewing full diplomatic relations by reopening embassies in each other’s countries. The two governments held negotiations in Havana last week to discuss both the reopening of embassies and the broader agenda of re-establishing normal relations.
Obama has loosened the trade embargo with a range of measures designed to increase economic ties with Cuba and increase the number of Cubans who don’t depend on the communist state for their livelihoods.
But the White House has said withdrawal from the 45-square-mile U.S. Navy base behind a Cuban minefield in southeast Cuba is not part of the bargain.
The Obama administration says removing barriers to U.S. travel, remittances and exports to Cuba is a tactical change that supports the United States’ unaltered goal of reforming Cuba’s single-party political system and centrally planned economy.
Cuba has said it welcomes the measures but has no intention of changing its system. Without establishing specific conditions, Castro’s government has increasingly linked the negotiations with the U.S. to a set of longstanding demands that include an end to U.S. support for Cuban dissidents and Cuba’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
On Wednesday, Castro emphasized an even broader list of Cuban demands, saying that while diplomatic ties may be re-established, normal relations with the U.S. depend on a series of concessions that appear highly unlikely in the near future.
“The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo naval base,” Castro said.
He demanded that the U.S. end the transmission of anti-Castro radio and television broadcasts and deliver “just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they’re suffered.”
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Castro’s remarks.
Associated Press writer Javier Cordoba reported this story in San Jose and Michael Weissenstein reported from Havana. AP writer Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report and Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg contributed from U.S. Navy base Guantánamo.