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article imageCuban president Raul Castro proposes better relations with U.S.

By Scott Tuttle     Dec 22, 2013 in World
Havana - On Saturday, Cuban president Raul Castro called on the United States to work with his regime in improving relations between the two nations while addressing the Cuban parliament.
The U.S. and Cuba have had rocky relations since the 1959 Cuban Revolution led by Raul Castro's older brother Fidel, who served as president of the small island nation from the time of the Revolution to his retirement in 2006.
The U.S. has had a trade embargo on Cuba since 1961, citing human rights violations and a repressive regime. Some have speculated the Castro regime's nationalization of private companies belonging to American entrepreneurs as a key reason for the Cuban Embargo as well. These sanctions severely limit commerce and Cuban travel for people and companies living in and operating within U.S. jurisdictions in order to cripple Cuba's economic system.
At a fund raising dinner in Miami last month, U.S. president Barack Obama made a comment questioning whether or not the 52-year-old trade embargo is really an effective means of resolving the differences between the U.S. and Cuba. Another small, but significant sign that the U.S. president is eyeballing possibilities for better U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations came as the two world leaders were pictured shaking hands at Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa on December 15.
"If we really want to move forward in our bilateral relations, we have to learn to mutually respect our differences and become accustomed to peacefully living with them," said the 82-year-old Cuban leader.
Though willing to discuss better diplomatic relations, Castro re-iterated that Cuba's communist economic system and one-party government will not be compromised as leverage in the process.
"We do not demand that the United States change its political and social system, nor do we accept negotiating ours," said Castro toward the end of his speech to parliament.
As long as Cuba continues to detain U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, experts say a major breakthrough in U.S.-Cuba relations is unlikely.
Gross was arrested four years ago by Cuban authorities while attempting to set up an internet communications network that would give unlimited access to a Jewish community. A Cuban judge ruled that Gross' activities violated Cuban law and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
It is unclear what steps, if any, the Obama Administration intends to take as far as securing Gross' early release.
More about Raul Castro, Cuba, Embargo, Relations, USA
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