Cuba demands Guantanamo Bay in return for US ties

Cuban President Raul Castro issues broad list of demands, saying that without them normal relations are unreachable.

Cuba''s President Castro talks with Cuba''s Foreign Minister Rodriguez during the CELAC summit in San Antonio de Belen in the province of Heredia
Castro's call for an end to the US embargo drew support at the summit from several Latin American presidents [Reuters]

Cuban President Raul Castro demanded that the United States return the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay before the two nations re-establish normal relations.

Castro also said the US should lift the half-century trade embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages in exchange for reconcilliation.  

Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States on Wednesday that Cuba and the US are working toward full diplomatic relations but “if these problems aren’t resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement wouldn’t make any sense”.

Castro and US President Barack Obama announced on December 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.

The Obama administration says removing barriers to US 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.

List of Cuban demands

Castro emphasised an even broader list of Cuban demands, saying that while diplomatic ties may be re-established, normal relations with the US depend on a series of concessions that appear highly unlikely in the near future.

He demanded that the US 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.”

Demands also include an end to US support for Cuban dissidents and Cuba’s removal from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Castro also wants the US to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for losses caused by the embargo.

“The re-establishment 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 Guantanamo naval base,” Castro said.

Castro’s call for an end to the US embargo drew support at the summit from the presidents of Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also praised the effort by the leaders of Cuba and the US to improve relations.

“The two heads of state deserve our recognition for the decision they made – beneficial for Cubans and Americans, but, most of all, for the entire continent,” she said.

Source: AP