Cuban President Raul Castro, speaking in a televised message Wednesday shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the imminent reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, struck a positive tone but warned that Cuba still demands the end of the embargo that's been in place since 1961.
“The decision of President Obama deserves the respect and reconnaissance of our people,” said the 83-year-old leader.
But after saluting the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Washington and the Communist government in Havana, Castro said, six minutes into his nine-minute speech, that “this does not mean the main issue has been resolved. The economic, commercial and financial embargo that causes enormous human and economic damage to our country must cease.”
“Even though the measures of the embargo have been converted into law,” Castro read from a prepared text, “the president of the United States can modify their implementation with his executive powers.”
Castro did not say which measures in particular Cuba wants to see removed first, but he mentioned some key areas: “I encourage the U.S. government to remove the obstacles that impede or restrict ties among our two peoples … especially about travel, direct mail and telecommunications,” he said.
“We recognize that we have profound differences,” Castro said, listing a number of subjects, including human rights and internal policy, where Washington and Havana are still separated by vast differences. “I reaffirm our will to have a dialogue on all those themes,” he added.
“We must learn the art of living together in a civilized manner,” was how the younger brother of Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolution’s founder, closed his speech.