In U.N. speech, Raúl Castro calls for end of embargo
Castro delivers his first speech ever before U.N. General Assembly
He says lifting the embargo and other conditions must be met before
relations are normal
Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker plans trip to Cuba next week
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
AND HANNAH ALLAM
Cuban leader Raúl Castro said Monday in his first address ever before
the United Nations General Assembly that a resolution condemning the
United States for the economic "blockade" against the island would
continue to be raised at the international body until the embargo ceases
It was the first General Assembly held since the United States and Cuba
restored diplomatic relations on July 20 after a gap of more than 54
years. Castro and President Barack Obama plans to meet on the sidelines
of the U.N. Tuesday.
"Now a long and complex process begins toward normalization," Castro
said during his General Assembly address.
But he repeated previous declarations that true normalization can only
be achieved if these conditions are met: lifting of the embargo — return
of the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, the end of U.S.-sponsored Radio
and TV Martí broadcasts and other "destabilizing" activities against
Cuba by the U.S. government, and reparations for the Cuban people for
damages caused by the embargo.
Castro noted that since the founding of the United Nations 70 years ago,
"there have constantly been wars of aggression and interference in the
internal affairs of the states, the ousting of sovereign governments by
force, the so-called 'soft coups' and the recolonization of territories."
He also endorsed the Iran nuclear deal as proof "that engagement and
negotiations are the only effective tools to settle disputes" among
nations. Castro said resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
requires Palestinians' "inalienable right" to build a state within
pre-1967 borders. And he ripped into stakeholders of the bloody Syrian
conflict, demanding that the European Union "take full and immediate
responsibility for the human crisis it helped to generate" by giving
safe haven to refugees.
Castro received sustained applause as he took his seat, and several
Latin American and African leaders gave him a standing ovation, in
apparent approval of his narrative that Western colonialism and
imperialism are at the roots of today's conflicts.
During the morning session of the General Assembly, Obama also mentioned
the new relationship between the United States and Cuba but he was more
"For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to
improve the lives of the Cuban people," he said. "We changed that." He
said in "this new era," a country has to "be strong enough to
acknowledge when what you're doing is not working."
While Obama said the United States continues to "have differences with
the Cuban government' and plans to "continue to stand up for human
rights," he said the best way to address such issues is "through
diplomatic relations, and increased commerce, and people-to-people ties."
During his address, Castro also mentioned concern for human rights
violations, but he made it clear that Cuba has a different
interpretation of human rights than the civil and political rights the
United States insists should be respected on the island.
Castro mentioned the right to live in peace and the right to a better
standard of living, citing the 795 million people who do not have enough
to eat, the 781 million who are illiterate and the 17,000 children who
die everyday from curable diseases at the same time annual military
expenses worldwide amount to more than $1.7 trillion.
"Barely a fraction of that figure could resolve the most pressing
problems afflicting humanity," Castro said.
Although Obama didn't indicate how the United States might vote on a
U.N. resolution condemning the U.S. embargo that is expected to come up
next month, he repeated his position that the embargo has outworn its
usefulness. Last year, only two countries, the United States and Israel,
voted against the resolution.
"As these contacts [with Cuba] yield progress, I'm confident that our
Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place
anymore," Obama said to applause. "Change won't come overnight to Cuba,
but I'm confident that openness, not coercion, will support the reforms
and better the life the Cuban people deserve, just as I believe that
Cuba will find its success if it pursues cooperation with other nations."
In another Cuba development Monday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny
Pritzker announced she will travel to Havana next Tuesday and Wednesday
to meet with senior Cuban officials and discuss recent U.S. rule changes
on trade, financial transactions and travel designed to make doing
business with Cuba easier. She's the second U.S. cabinet-level official
to visit the island since resumption of diplomatic ties. Secretary of
State John Kerry visited in August.
A number of leaders, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, mentioned their satisfaction at the
new relationship between the United States and Cuba.
Rousseff, who by tradition was the first national leader to speak at
Monday's plenary, said the region "welcomes the establishment of
diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, putting an end
to a dispute derived from the Cold War." She said she hoped the
culmination of the process would be the end of the embargo.
Whitefield reported from Miami and Allam from the United Nations.
Source: In U.N. speech, Raúl Castro calls for end of embargo | Miami