Cuba's Raul Castro calls for 'civilised relations' with US
Cuban President Raul Castro has called for "civilised relations" with
the United States, saying the two countries should respect their
President Castro said the US should drop its demand for regime change on
the communist-run island.
That would allow both sides to continue work on improving relations, he
Mr Castro's comments follow a public handshake with President Obama at
the memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela in South Africa earlier this month.
In a rare public speech, Mr Castro said Cuban and American officials had
met several times over the last year to discuss practical matters, such
as immigration and the re-establishment of a postal service.
That shows that relations can be civilised, Mr Castro explained.
But he warned: "If we really want to make progress in bilateral
relations, we have to learn to respect each other's differences and get
used to living peacefully with them. Otherwise, no. We are ready for
another 55 years like the last."
The US broke off relations with in 1961 after the revolution and
maintains an economic embargo against the island.
"We do not ask the United States to change its political and social
system, nor do we agree to negotiate over ours," Mr Castro told
legislators at the closing session of the parliament in the capital, Havana.
Relations between the two neighbours have shown signs of improvement of
late, although some stumbling blocks to reconciliation remain, said the
BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Havana.
Raul Castro, 82, took over from his brother, Fidel, in 2006. Fidel had
serious health problems and was never able to come back to power. Two
years later, he resigned and transferred control permanently to Raul Castro.
He has since carried out a programme of economic reforms, which has
helped efforts for relations with the US to be improved.
But critics say the pace of change has been too slow.
"The reform process in Cuba cannot be rushed or it will lead to
failure," Mr Castro warned.
Among the most recent changes announced by Raul Castro is the end of
restrictions on private individuals to buy new and second hand cars.
Anyone with enough money will be allowed to order the vehicles from a
Until now, only those who were given a previous government authorisation
were allowed to buy cars in Cuba.
Source: "BBC News - Cuba's Raul Castro calls for 'civilised relations'
with US" - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-25479795