Raul Castro and US-Cuba Fence Mending

Yesterday marked the 59th Revolution Day in Cuba, a celebration of the uprising against the former Batista regime. During his speech at a celebration in Havana, President Raul Castro opened the door to no-limit talks with the US.

The Cuban President has made this offer clear to the State Department through diplomatic channels after he took power. One of the issues placed on the table would likely be lifting a 50-year trade and travel embargo with the island nation.

Although the US has not had diplomatic relations with a neighboring country for 50 years, the State Department response doesn’t point to an imminent change. Assistant secretary for public affairs Mike Hammer stated that Raul Castro must institute democratic reforms, improve human rights, and release an American who is serving 15 years in prison for bringing satellite and communications equipment while on a USAID democracy-building program.

In response the Cuban regime pointed to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and accuses the US of torturing terror suspects held there. The first vice-president stated, “We will continue to fight such a flagrant violation…Never, under any circumstance, will we stop trying to recover that piece of ground.”

The finger pointing by both countries suggests that diplomatic talks will not be taking place in the near future. The value of those discussions is also dubious. Raul Castro and his regime stand to gain economically if the embargo is lifted, and the US does not seem to enjoy similar prospects.

During the same speech, Raul Castro reminisced about the 1959 Revolution, promised to complete a trans-island road, empathized with citizen complaints of low salaries while promising to overhaul Cuba’s socialist economy.

Castro also spoke to quieting dissenters saying “some small factions are doing nothing less than trying to lay the groundwork and hoping that one day what happened in Libya will happen here.”