Making his first foreign trip since his brother Fidel's death, Raúl Castro told leaders at the V Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that Cuba wants to continue its rapprochement with the United States and have a dialogue with the Trump administration.
“I want to express the willingness of Cuba to continue negotiating on pending bilateral matters with the United States on the basis of equality, reciprocity and respect for the sovereignty and independence of our country and to pursue a respectful dialogue and cooperation on topics of common interest with the new government of President Donald Trump,” Castro said during a speech at the CELAC summit being held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and attended by 10 heads of state and 33 foreign ministers from the region.
Trump has made various pronouncements on U.S. relations with Cuba, ranging from seeking a better deal in negotiations with Havana to scrapping the Obama administration’s opening unless Cuba makes political concessions, including religious and political freedom for the Cuban people. His nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has said the Trump administration plans to review all former President Barack Obama’s executive orders underlying the rapprochement with Cuba.
“Cuba and the United States can cooperate and live together in a civilized way, respecting our differences and promoting that which benefits both countries and peoples,” said Castro, “but one shouldn’t wait for Cuba to undertake inherent concessions to its sovereignty and independence.”
Castro didn’t waste an opportunity to blast the U.S. embargo against the island. “The economic, commercial and financial blockade persists, causing considerable deprivations and human damages that gravely hurt our economy and hinder development,” he said.
His CELAC appearance was Castro’s first foreign trip since the Nov. 25, 2016 death of his brother. He thanked Dominican President Danilo Medina for his homage and remembrance of Fidel Castro in the opening session of the summit.