US says no to President Raul Castro for the Guantanamo Bay return in Cuba. Castro demanded the military base before relations with Washington are normalized. In a speech, Castro also called for the lifting of the US trade embargo and Cuba’s removal from a terror list, according to The Spreadit.
Last month the two countries announced a thaw in relations, agreeing to restore diplomatic ties. They were severed in 1961. High-level talks were held last week.
A Congressional delegation arrived in Havana to begin negotiations aimed at reopening embassies in the two countries’ capitals.
Meanwhile, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared to signal his approval for the political rapprochement. Cuba’s state-run newspaper published a letter on Tuesday in which he wrote: “We will always defend co-operation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries.” He wrote that although he did not “trust the policy of the US”, it did not mean he rejected a “peaceful solution to conflicts”.
His brother Raul, who succeeded him as president in 2008, made his demands at the summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Costa Rica, according to Sportact.
“The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalising bilateral relations,” he said. “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.”
The land on which the base stands was leased to the US government in 1903 by Cuba’s then-rulers. US officials have so far not responded to Castro’s remarks. President Barack Obama has called on Congress to put an end to the trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962.
Earlier this month he also used his executive powers to loosen trade and restrictions on travel to the Caribbean island.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest indicated any such move to return Guantanamo Bay was off the cards. “The President does believe that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down,” he said. “But the naval base is not something that we wish to be closed.” The U.S. currently controls over 45 sq. mi. of Guantanamo Bay as a result of treaties dating back to the Spanish-American War.
The military prison has been embroiled in controversy for reports of torture and the absence of trials for inmates accused of terrorism.
The U.S. and Cuba reopened diplomatic ties in December after over 50 years of non acknowledgment, notes TIME. Obama issued an executive order to close the Guantanamo prison in 2009, but so far this has not come into fruition.