Thursday, January 29, 2015

U.S. Must Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations With Cuba, Raúl Castro Says

U.S. Must Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations With Cuba, Raúl Castro Says
Demands Come as Two Nations Move Toward Renewing Full Diplomatic Relations
Jan. 28, 2015 8:23 p.m. ET

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica—Cuban President Raúl Castro demanded Wednesday that
the U.S. return the base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade
embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two
nations re-establish normal relations.

Mr. Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and
Caribbean States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full
diplomatic relations but "if these problems aren't resolved, this
diplomatic rapprochement wouldn't make any sense."

Mr. Castro and U.S. 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.

Mr. 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 U.S. travel,
remittances and exports to Cuba is a tactical change that supports the
U.S.' 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, Mr. Castro's
government has increasingly linked the negotiations with the U.S. to a
set of long-standing 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, Mr. 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 U.S. established the military base in 1903, and the current Cuban
government has been demanding the land's return since the 1959
revolution that brought it to power. Cuba also wants the U.S. 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," Mr. 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 didn't immediately respond to a request for
comment on Mr. Castro's remarks.

John Caulfield, who led the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until last
year, said the tone of Cuba's recent remarks didn't mean it would be
harder than expected to reach a deal on short-term goals, such as
reopening full embassies in Havana and Washington.

In fact, he said, the comments by Mr. Castro and high-ranking diplomats
may indicate the pressure Cuba's government is feeling to strike a deal
as Cubans' hopes for better living conditions rise in the wake of
Obama's outreach.

"There is this huge expectation of change and this expectation has been
set off by the president's announcement," Mr. Caulfield said.

Source: U.S. Must Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations With Cuba, Raúl
Castro Says - WSJ -

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