Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cuba seeks normalization with US

Posted on Monday, 09.26.11

Cuba seeks normalization with US
Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS -- Cuba wants to re-establish relations with the United
States with a focus on humanitarian and other issues, Foreign Minister
Bruno Rodriguez said Monday.

Rodriguez also called on President Barack Obama to release five Cubans
serving U.S. espionage sentences, telling the opening of the new U.N.
General Assembly that the continued imprisonment of the five men
convicted of espionage in 2001 is "inhumane." The Cuban government
refers to the five men as heroes who were gathering information about
terrorist groups in the United States to protect their homeland.

The foreign minister said the two countries had many points of
understanding in common.

"The Cuban government reiterates its willingness and interest to move
toward the normalization of relations with the United States," Rodriguez

"Today I reiterate the proposal of beginning a dialogue aimed at solving
bilateral problems, including humanitarian issues, as well as the offer
of negotiating several cooperation agreements to combat
drug-trafficking, terrorism, human smuggling, prevent natural disasters
and protect the environment."

Among the humanitarian issues pending between the two countries is the
continued imprisonment of American Alan Gross, who the Cuban government
accuses of illegally bringing communications equipment onto the island
while on a USAID-funded democracy building program.

In March of this year he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes
against the state.

Cuban officials including President Raul Castro accused him of spying,
but Gross says he was only trying to help the island's tiny Jewish
community get Internet access.

The case has harmed any chance of improved relations between Washington
and Havana, which briefly seemed to be getting better after Obama
assumed the presidency.

In an interview with The New York Times during his current visit to the
United States, Rodriguez did not rule out the possibility of Gross being
freed for humanitarian reasons. But he indicated Cuba would expect some
kind of reciprocal action.

Rodriguez did not mention Gross in his speech to the assembly on Monday,
but spoke several times about the five imprisoned Cubans.


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