Cuba's Castro slams U.S. trade embargo at United Nations

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U.S. Embargo "Main Obstacle" to Cuba's Development: Castro


Cuba's President Raul Castro, speaking at the United Nations for the first time, on Saturday hailed renewed diplomatic ties with the United States as "major progress" but slammed a U.S. trade embargo as the top obstacle to Cuba's economic development.

Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama in December announced a detente following more than half a century of animosity between the former Cold War foes that culminated in the restoration of diplomatic relations on July 20.

Images from Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Cuba:

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Cuba's Castro slams U.S. trade embargo at United Nations
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 14: Secretary of State John Kerry (R) watches as Marines raise the American flag at the U.S. Embassy August 14, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. Kerry will visited the reopened embassy, the first time an American secretary of state has visited Cuba since 1945, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Secretary of State John Kerry, and other dignitaries watch as U.S. Marines raise the U.S. flag over the newly reopened embassy in Havana, Cuba. Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry traveled to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech at the US Embassy in Havana on August 14, 2015. The Marine guard of the newly reopened US embassy in Cuba raised the flag over the building Friday for the first time in 54 years, marking the end of the countries' Cold War standoff. AFP PHOTO/Adalberto Roque (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Cubans hold US and Cuban flags outside the US Embassy building as the US flag is raised over it in Havana on August 14, 2015, during US Secretary of State John Kerry's (out of frame) visit. The Marine guard of the newly reopened US embassy in Cuba raised the flag over the building Friday for the first time in 54 years, marking the end of the countries' Cold War standoff. AFP PHUOTO/Adalberto Roque (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Marines raise the U.S. flag over the newly reopened embassy in Havana, Cuba. Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais,Pool)
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and other dignitaries watch the raising of the U.S. flag over the newly reopened embassy in Havana, Cuba. Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry traveled to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais,Pool)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 14: Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks during the flag-raising ceremony at the recently reopened U.S. Embassy August 14, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. Kerry will visited the reopened embassy, the first time an American secretary of state has visited Cuba since 1945, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at the US Embassy building in Havana on August 14, 2015. The Marine guard of the newly reopened US embassy in Cuba raised the flag over the building Friday for the first time in 54 years, marking the end of the countries' Cold War standoff. AFP PHOTO/Adalberto Roque (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry boards his aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a flight to Havana, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry is traveling to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and the U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)
Secretary of State John Kerry walks down the stairs during his arrival at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry traveled to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) waves next to the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Havana Jeffrey DeLaurentis (2-L) upon his arrival at Jose Marti international airport in Havana on August 14, 2015. Kerry visited Cuba on Friday to raise the US flag over the newly reopened embassy, sealing Washington's historic rapprochement with Havana. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
A podium with a representation of the The Great Seal of the United States, sits in the staging area before the start of a flag raising ceremony outside the newly opened U.S. Embassy, overlooking Havana's seaside boulevard, the Malecon, in Cuba, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry arrived in Havana, Friday, for an historic ceremony to raise the U.S. flag over a restored U.S. Embassy in the Cuban capital. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry traveled to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gives a thumbs-up as he boards his aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a flight to Havana, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry is traveling to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and the U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gives a thumbs-up as he prepares to board his aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a flight to Havana, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Kerry is traveling to the Cuban capital to raise the U.S. flag and formally reopen the long-closed U.S. Embassy. Cuba and the U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations July 20, as part of efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)
Cuban policemen patrol the surroundings of the US Embassy in Havana on August 13, 2015, a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Cuba for re-opening the embassy. This is the first time in years that Cuban police takes bicycles for patrolling. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 14: U.S. Embassy employees clean the seal of the United States after hanging it on the outside of the building a few hours before the ceremonial flag-raising August 14, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visited Havana Friday and raised the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - AUGUST 13: A lone Cuban flag is raised inside the 'Wall of Flags' across the street from the U.S. Embassy August 13, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. Cuba planted 138 flag poles in February 2006 in an attempt to obsucre an electronic message ticker on the outside of the U.S. Interests Section building. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana Friday and raise the American flag at the reopened U.S. embassy, a symbolic act after the the two former Cold War enemies reestablished diplomatic relations in July. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A Cuban policeman patrols the surroundings of the US Embassy in Havana on August 13, 2015, a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Cuba for re-opening the embassy. This is the first time in years that Cuban police takes bicycles for patrolling. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers set up a dais at the US embassy during preparations for its inauguration, on August 12, 2015. The former US Interests Section became an embassy on July 20, but no US flag flies over the building until US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba on August 14 and formally inaugurates it. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Although Obama has taken steps to ease trade and travel restrictions, only the U.S. Congress can lift the full embargo and that is not viewed as likely at the moment.

The embargo is "the main obstacle to our country's economic development, while affecting other nations due to its extraterritorial scope, and hurting the interests of American citizens and companies," Castro told a U.N. summit of world leaders on sustainable development.

"Such policy is rejected by 188 United Nations members states that demand its removal," he said, referring to an annual U.N. General Assembly resolution that has condemned the U.S. embargo for more than two decades.

Cuba estimates the embargo has caused $121 billion in damage to its economy. It has launched a campaign for the General Assembly to again adopt the resolution calling for the embargo to be lifted.

U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Washington is considering abstaining from the U.N. vote on the resolution, provided the draft text is amended from previous years to tone down the criticism of the United States.

Adoption of the resolution has become an annual ritual. The United States and Israel have always voted against the declaration. While the General Assembly's vote is nonbinding and symbolic, it has served to highlight U.S. isolation regarding Havana.

Castro is due to address the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday for the first time as president. Castro, 84, took over from his ailing brother, Fidel, provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008.

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