Raúl Castro – Despite a new relationship with the U.S., Cuba’s revolution will continue
Raúl Castro: Despite a new relationship with the U.S., Cuba’s revolution
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM
12/20/2014 2:10 PM 12/20/2014 8:19 PM
Despite U.S. promises of more trade and travel under renewed diplomatic
ties with the communist island, Cuban President Raúl Castro on Saturday
vowed his country would continue to make economic changes at its own
pace and wouldn’t waver from its socialist model.
“We shouldn’t expect that in order for relations to improve with the
United States, Cuba is renouncing the ideas for which we have fought for
more than a century and for which our people have spilled so much blood
and run such great risks,” said Castro at the closing session of the
National Assembly, Cuba’s parliament.
Listening in the audience as Castro made his nationally televised
address were the five convicted spies whose U.S. detention figured so
prominently in the negotiations that led to the historic agreement
between the United States and Cuba. Also present: Elián González, who
was at the center of a bitter custody battle in 2000 between his Miami
relatives and his father in Cuba.
Castro’s speech came three days after the surprise announcement by Cuba
and the U.S. that they would be restoring diplomatic relations as soon
as details are worked out in the coming year.
The United States broke off relations with Cuba on Jan. 3, 1961, just
months after the Eisenhower administration imposed a partial trade
embargo on Cuba that was later extended as hostilities between the two
While President Barack Obama’s mantra during his year-end White House
news conference Friday was engagement as a way to bring about change in
Cuba, Castro’s was mutual respect.
“We have always been willing to engage in respectful dialogue on equal
terms to address any issues without a shadow over our independence and
without renouncing a single one of our principles,” said Castro.
“In the same way that we’ve never proposed that the Unites States change
its political system, we will demand respect for ours,” Castro said to
He noted that Obama has had to put up with “virulent criticism” from
“forces opposed to the normalization of relations,” including
Cuban-American legislators and anti-revolutionary groups.
Hours after he spoke in Havana, about 250 people, including dissidents
from the island and some of those Cuban-American legislators, rallied in
Miami’s José Martí Park to renounce Obama as a traitor who wasn’t
thinking of the Cuban people when the deal was struck with Cuba.
Delfín González, Elian’s uncle, was among the protesters in Miami. “We
feel betrayed once again,” he told the Nuevo Herald.
Jorge Luis García Pérez, a Cuban dissident known as Antúnez, said Obama
has sent “a message to my companions in the resistance that this country
has turned its back on us.”
Castro thanked Canada and Pope Francis for their roles in facilitating
the high-level talks that led to the diplomatic breakthrough, which was
announced Wednesday by Castro and Obama in nationally televised speeches.
The day is “very important” for Cuba, Castro said, but “the essential
thing is lifting the blockade,” the Cuban term for the decades-old
embargo. He said he hoped that Obama would continue to use his
presidential prerogative to make inroads against it.
Responding to criticism that more market-oriented reforms are coming too
slowly, Castro said that the speed of the reforms is something that is
decided in Cuba. “It isn’t something we can do from one day to the next
if we want success,” he said.
Cuba’s economy is expected to grow by only 1.3 percent in 2014, but
Castro said the economy began to pick up in the second half of the year.
He acknowledged that Cuban salaries must increase, but said “first we
have to increase wealth.” Raising salaries too fast without an increase
in production, he said, could introduce inflation.
Castro also said he appreciated the invitation from Panamanian President
Juan Carlos Varela to attend the Summit of the Americas, which will be
held in Panama City in April. “We will take part,” he said.
Until the recent détente, Washington had long fought against Cuba’s
inclusion but Latin American and Caribbean nations had become insistent
that Cuba sit at the table. Castro said he was grateful for their
“unanimous consensus” and solidarity.
Castro also said the “Cuba people appreciate the just decision” of Obama
to release Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, the
three members of the Cuban Five who were still in U.S. prisons, in
exchange for a CIA agent believed to be Rolando Sarraff and the
humanitarian release of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross.
Two other spies, René González, and Fernando González, had already
returned to Cuba after completing lengthy prison terms.
Known in Cuba as the Five Heroes, the spies infiltrated exile groups in
South Florida to monitor potential terrorist threats against Cuba. They
were convicted of a variety of charges related to the 1996 shootdown by
Cuban military jets of two planes from South Florida and the deaths of
four U.S. citizens who were aboard.
In off-the-cuff remarks after the National Assembly session had
officially closed, Castro noted the presence of Elián González in the
audience. González, who was found adrift at sea after his mother
perished while making the crossing from Cuba, was caught up in an
international custody tug-of-war between his Miami relatives and his
The Justice Department ordered the boy returned to his father. Federal
agents seized him from his relatives’ Little Havana home and returned
him to Cuba in June 2000.
“Remember the fight for Elián?” asked Castro. He noted that the young
man had just turned 21 and was in his fourth year of university studying
Castro said he was very proud of him and asked him to come forward and
stand with the Five Heroes. “A hug to all,” said Castro.
As Cuba prepares to celebrate the anniversary of the Jan. 1, 1959
triumph of the revolution, Castro added: “With a people like this, we
should be able to reach the 570th year” of the revolution.
And as the Cuban leader left the rostrum, he pumped his fist and said,
“Viva Fidel! Patria o Muerte (Homeland or Death)!”
Source: Raúl Castro: Despite a new relationship with the U.S., Cuba’s
revolution will continue | The Miami Herald –