President Raul Castro has described the dismantling of the blockade and closure of a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay as prerequisites for a full normalization of ties between Washington and Havana.
“The restoration of diplomatic relations is the beginning of a process toward the normalization of bilateral relations, but this will not be possible if a blockade still exists, if the territory of Guantanamo, illegally occupied by the U.S. Navy, isn’t returned, if the radio and TV broadcasts, violating international norms, do not cease, and if our people are not fairly compensated for the human and economic damage they have endured,” Raul Castro said at the third summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Costa Rica on Wednesday.
However, White House press secretary Josh Earnest has now responded by claiming the Cuban president's remarks are an example of the “wide variety of disagreements between the United States and Cuba.”
“There is a pretty clear difference between reestablishing diplomatic relations and carrying out the longer process of normalizing relations,” he told a press conference in Washington.
Yet he emphasized the administration of President Barack Obama remains committed to diverging from decades of failed U.S. policy towards the island nation.
“The strategy that has been employed for the last five decades of trying to isolate Cuba is one that has not resulted in any (of the) kinds of changes we'd like to see,” he said.
He also said Obama continues to “believe that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down.”
“But the naval base is not something that we wish to be closed,” he told reporters.
U.S. control of the isolated bay dates back to the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty – inked five years after the United States intervened to overthrow Spanish rule of Cuba. The Cuban government has long maintained the United States strong armed the then newly independent Cuba into handing over the bay with the threat of force, meaning the century old treaty is illegal. International norms generally prohibit the threat of force.
Since coming to office in 2009, Obama has repeatedly vowed to close the controversial detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, but has made little progress.
Currently, the camp holds over 100 detainees, many of whom have suffered torture and been denied due process, according to human rights groups.
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