- Jul 11, 2004
- Reaction score
by Michael Langan in Havana
December 03, 2006 06:07am
CUBA'S communist interim leader Raul Castro, in a shift from the tack of his ailing brother Fidel Castro, has overnight pushed for negotiations with the United States to end decades of tense ties.
"Let me take this opportunity to express our willingness to settle the long US-Cuba disagreement at the negotiating table," Raul Castro told troops at Cuba's first military parade in a decade.
"Of course, that is, as long as they accept that we are a country that does not tolerate any reduction of its independence, and based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, non interference and mutual respect," Raul Castro added, speaking before Communist Party and military leaders.
"Until that happens, after almost half a century, we are prepared to wait patiently for the moment when common sense takes root in the halls of power in Washington," Raul Castro said.
Mr Castro has been filling in for his brother Fidel, 80, since Fidel Castro - Cuba's leader since 1959 - underwent intestinal surgery in July.
The policy of willingness to talk with the United States if respected as an equal is standing Cuban policy.
But Fidel Castro has not reached out to the United States, much less publicly, on a regular basis.
And Raul Castro's timing and mentioning the negotiating table - as Cuba is consolidating its changing of the communist guard - suggests some growing autonomy on his part.
His tone, however, did not reflect a change in Cuba's defiant everyday anti-US rhetoric.
Mr Castro said "the US government is at a dead-end: on the one hand, it realizes that it cannot prolong occupation in Iraq, while on the other it admits that it doesn't have the minimum conditions needed to pull out without damaging their interests.
"In the eyes of the world, the so-called 'crusade on terrorism' is unavoidably heading down the path to a humiliating defeat," he said.
"The American people, just as in the case of Vietnam, will put an end to these unjust and criminal wars.
"We hope that the US authorities will learn that war is not the solution to the growing problems afflicting the planet; that proclaiming their right to irresponsibly attack 'sixty or more dark corners' of the world, even when they are already stuck in two of them, makes their differences with other countries more complex and profound" Mr Castro said, charging the US wields "power based on intimidation and terror."
Cuba, Latin America's only one-party communist regime, and the United States do not have full diplomatic relations. Each maintains an Interests Section, a diplomatic office, in the other's capital.
The United States has had en economic embargo on Cuba since 1962.
On Friday, Vice President Carlos Lage delivered a firm defence of Cuba's one-party communist system, insisting it would outlive ailing leader Fidel Castro and challenging US calls for change.
Lage told hundreds of supporters at a closing gala for celebrations honouring Fidel Castro's 80th birthday that: "We will have one party."
"But I'm not talking about today, I am talking about the future.
"In Cuba, there will be no succession. There will be continuity," Mr Lage added.
The US State Department has criticized the replacement of one Castro by another and said Cubans should have the opportunity for democratic change.
"We think the Cuban people need to be given the opportunity to see and have democratic change. We believe that is what the Cuban people would like to have," Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said in Washington this week.
"The creation of some sort of Castro dynasty simply by transferring power to Raul Castro and having him continue to operate the same undemocratic, repressive policies as his brother is certainly not a solution that we think is viable," Casey said, adding that the United States was ready to help.
Raul first hinted at some openness to dialogue with the United States in an interview with the Communist Party newspaper Granma August 18, suggesting ties might be normalised on equal terms. But the US shot back that it was not talking to "Fidel light."