Tags: Barack Obama | Castro-Cuba | Raul Castro | cuba | Guantanamo | relations | embargo

Castro Demands Return of Guantanamo, Compensation for Embargo

Castro Demands Return of Guantanamo, Compensation for Embargo
Cuban President Raul Castro. (Alejandro Ernesto/EPA/Landov)

By    |   Thursday, 29 January 2015 10:17 AM

The Obama administration's path toward a renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba hit a road bump on Wednesday when Cuban President Raul Castro told a regional conference that any progress is dependent upon the U.S. returning the Guantánamo naval base and offering compensation for damages.

"The reestablishment 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 Guantánamo naval base,” Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, according to the Miami Herald.

The Cuban leader also demanded an end to U.S. support for the transmission of anti-Castro radio and television broadcasts, as well as "just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they're suffered" during the embargo.

Leasing rights to the 46-square-mile naval base at Guantánamo Bay were granted as part of a 1903 Cuban-American treaty, and the U.S. sends the island nation a $4,085 rent check every month, reported Reuters.

However, Cuba says it has only cashed one check to date, by mistake, Reuters said.

The new conditions the Castro regime is placing on negotiations drew a quick response from lawmakers, who are concerned the administration will enter into a bad deal.

"The Castro brothers, once again, have made their intent toward the United States clear: they plan to use the Iranian playbook in an attempt to extort concessions from the Obama administration in exchange for nothing.

"Noticeably absent from the regime’s demands, not surprisingly, is any offer to compensate the Cubans and Americans who had their land and property seized by the Castro regime, any change in its oppressive nature and abysmal human rights practices, and to halt its support for terrorism," said Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

She added that President Obama "must not allow this strategic asset to be extorted from the U.S. by the Castro brothers at any cost."

The requirement that compensation be paid to Cuba is likely to be adamantly opposed by lawmakers, including New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry before talks began, Menendez cautioned the administration about offering anything until Cuba agreed to compensate Americans who had their property confiscated by the Castro regime.

"[T]he Administration has not provided details about how it will hold the Castro regime to account for the more than $6 billion in outstanding claims by American citizens and businesses for properties confiscated by the Castros, or the more than $2 billion in unpaid civil and criminal judgments rendered against the Castro regime by U.S. courts," Menendez, a Democrat, wrote.

The State Department did not immediately respond to Castro's demands, but a former administration official told The Associated Press that his comments do not signal that progress would be harder to achieve.

“There is this huge expectation of change and this expectation has been set off by the president’s announcement,” said John Caulfield, the former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Raul Castro's remarks come almost a week after the U.S. sent a delegation to Cuba to begin discussions on a number of issues, including ending the travel ban to Cuba, opening up embassies in Washington and Havana, and the movement of diplomats.

The talks, which concluded last Friday, addressed Cuba's poor human rights record, but U.S. officials stated that would be an area of continued disagreement.

"We do have differences in that subject, profound differences with the Cuban government, and it was part of the conversation," said U.S. Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson, according to USA Today.

A letter purportedly written by Fidel Castro was read on Monday to an audience at the University of Havana in which the former Cuban dictator endorsed his brother's actions in engaging in talks with the U.S., but also said he does not "trust the policy of the United States," according to Vice News.

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The Obama administration's path toward a renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba hit a road bump on Wednesday when Cuban President Raul Castro said that progress is dependent upon the U.S. returning the Guantánamo naval base and offering compensation for damages.
Raul Castro, cuba, Guantanamo, relations, embargo
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2015-17-29
Thursday, 29 January 2015 10:17 AM
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