Cuban President: Return of Guantanamo Bay Needed to Normalize Relations

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Top Story — The United States must return the Guantanamo Bay naval base to Cuba, lift the half-century embargo completely and remunerate Cuba for the embargo’s economic damages before both countries can move forward in restoring diplomatic relations, Cuban President Raúl Castro said on Wednesday. President Castro’s remarks, made during a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica, are the latest in an increasing list of demands made on the United States, which some fear may prolong the reconciliation process between both countries.

While voicing support for the restoration of diplomatic ties, the Cuban president warned that, “this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base.” On the topic of compensation for the embargo established in 1960, Castro demanded “just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they’ve suffered.”

President Castro’s remarks come less than one week after U.S. and Cuban officials held historic, high-level talks in Havana, where both parties agreed to move ahead with their efforts to restore diplomatic relations. During the two-day negotiations, Cuban officials requested that the island nation be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

President Castro on Wednesday further admonished U.S. officials’ alleged support for Cuban dissidents, in reference to the U.S. assistant secretary of state’s decision to meet with dissidents following the historic talks last week.

“Everything appears to indicate that the aim is to foment an artificial political opposition via economic, political and communicational means,” Castro said, adding that, “If these problems are not resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States would be meaningless.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch defended President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration reform during questioning from Republicans at her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
  • Parents of the 43 missing students from Guerrero state refuse to accept the decision of Mexico’s attorney general to close the case after he officially announced the 43 students were dead on Tuesday.
  • Due to environmental concerns, Mexico has decided to stop the multi-million dollar Dragon Mart project, which would have created an almost 1,400 acre mega-mall near Cancun catering to Chinese vendors.

Caribbean

  • Dominican activists are organizing a movement to make Loma Mirada, a mountain in central Dominican Republic known for its rich biodiversity, a national park in order to protect it from a proposed nickel mining project.

Central America

  • El Salvador’s decision to pardon a woman wrongfully convicted of having an abortion last week should “mark a turning point” that will lead to the release of other women in prison for similar situations, according to a group of U.N. experts, who also urged El Salvador to repeal legislation that criminalizes abortion.
  • During the annual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Costa Rica, a group of Nicaraguan activists appealed to Central American leaders for assistance in protecting their people and land from the potentially devastating effects of the proposed trans-oceanic canal project.

Andes

  • Colombia’s attorney general announced on Wednesday it is investigating an Italian firm for allegedly paying bribes to the FARC and ELN guerrillas to guarantee its security, highlighting the role extortion plays in funding the leftist groups.
  • Oil and gas extraction have pushed deeper into the Amazon since 2008, creating a deforested area larger than the U.S. state of Texas, according to a new study, which warns of a “Pandora’s Box” of deforestation if clear-cutting is not halted.

Southern Cone

  • The owner of the gun that killed Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman emerged from hiding on Wednesday, and immediately faced public accusations from the government of President Cristina Fernández, who Nisman publicly accused of colluding to protect the perpetrators of a terror bombing.
  • Argentina on Wednesday signed a preliminary agreement with a Chinese oil company to explore resources in the former’s territory, including shale deposits, an opportunity that has attracted controversy due to its potential environmental impacts.
  • After disgraced Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista resigned as chairman of the OGX company late on Tuesday, Brazil’s state-owned oil firm Petrobras — facing a corruption scandal of its own — posted a major loss on Wednesday, a day Business Insider called “surreal.”

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