President Raul Castro stated Thursday that Cuba is ready to sit down for talks with the U.S. to mend fences with its neighbor, as long as the conversation is between equals.
The Associated Press reports that the two have been enemies since the Cold War, but that Castro grabbed the microphone at the end of a Revolution Day, which marked the 59th anniversary of a failed uprising against a military barracks.
The talk, apparently unplanned, stated that no topic would be off-limits in the conversation between Castro and the U.S., including talking about democracy, freedom of the press, and human rights on the island nation. Raul Castro stated:
“Any day they want, the table is set. This has already been said through diplomatic channels. If they want to talk, we will talk.”
Raul Castro added, however, that the United States would also need to be prepared to hear Cuba’s complaints about those issues in the U.S., as well as its European allies. The Cuban president stated, “We are nobody’s colony, nobody’s puppet.”
According to The Boston Herald, Mike Hammer, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. State Department, stated that before the U.S. will sit down with Raul Castro and Cuba, the country will need to institute democratic reforms, improve human rights, and also release Alan Gross, a Maryland native who is serving 15 years after bringing satellite and other communications equipment into the communist country illegally.
Gross was on a USAID-funded democracy-building program when he was arrested. Hammer stated of the U.S.-Raul Castro-proposed talks that:
“Our message is very clear to the Castro government: They need to begin to allow for the political freedom of expression that the Cuban people demand, and we are prepared to discuss with them how this can be furthered. They are the ones ultimately responsible for taking those actions, and today we have not seen them.”
There is no word yet on whether Raul Castro will agree to the U.S.’s demands in order to begin talks between the two countries.