Raul Castro Demands Guantanamo and Issues Warning To U.S.

Cuban President Raul Castro issued both warnings and demands to the U.S. only one week after high-level diplomatic talks took place to start the process of normalizing relations between the U.S. and the island nation. The Inquisitr reported in 2012 that Castro publicly announced Cuba's willingness to sit down at the table with the U.S. At that time, he also warned that the U.S. would have to hear Cuba's complaints about how the U.S. and its European allies have handled Cuba over the years.

According to the Wall Street Journal, on Wednesday, Castro stated that the U.S. must return Guantanamo Bay to the Cuban people before normalization can take place. He also warned the U.S. against meddling in Cuba's internal politics.

Castro addressed the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), saying, "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's comments to CELAC also included a demand that the U.S. stop broadcasting anti-Castro television and radio messages and that the U.S. pay compensation to Cuba for the suffering the Cuban people, both "human and economic," under the U.S. embargo against the regime. In addition, Castro expressed concern that the U.S. may try to foment dissent and warned the U.S. against such action. Castro stated unequivocally that there are no plans to change the existing one-party system in Cuba; however, Cuba observers do not rule out the possibility of independent candidates being able to enter political races in the future.

Obama is proposing easing the ban to allow certain types of businesses to work with Cuba, most notably the telecom industry. American telecommunications companies could pave the way for broader access to telephone and Internet services in Cuba. It may be partly because of the nature of the telecom industry that Castro is wary of U.S. motives. Broader Internet access could make it harder for him to control communications and to retain power. Reuters quotes Castro as saying, "Everything appears to indicate that the aim is to foment an artificial political opposition via economic, political and communicational means."

Despite the harsh rhetoric, Castro has indicated that Cuba is committed to talks with Washington. Castro urged President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to lift what portions of the embargo he can. Recognizing that a complete removal of the embargo is unlikely to pass successfully in Congress, Raul Castro welcomed President Obama's efforts to hold a debate in Congress about lifting the embargo against Cuba.