Castro to US: End the embargo or Cuba will not renew bilateral ties

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Castro to US: End the embargo or Cuba will not renew bilateral ties
The U.S. State Department official leading negotiations with the Cuban government said on Wednesday (February 04) the return of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is not being considered in those talks. "The issue of Guantanamo is not on the table in these conversations," Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, testified during a House of Representatives hearing.
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 18: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) stands near a poster with pictures of those lost from the group called 'Brothers to the Rescue' when they were shot down by Cuban fighter jets in 1996, as he and other congressional people addressed the decision by President Barack Obama to change the United States Cuba policy on December 18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Mr. Rubio was joined by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) as they held the press conference to denounce the changes to U.S.-Cuba policy by the Obama administration. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 18: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) greets Mirta Costa the mother of Carlos Costa, a pilot from a group called 'Brothers to the Rescue' who was shot down by Cuban fighter jets in 1996, as he and other congressional people addressed the decision by President Barack Obama to change the United States Cuba policy on December 18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Mr. Rubio was joined by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (in the Center of photo) and Rep Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) as they held the press conference to denounce the changes to U.S.-Cuba policy by the Obama administration. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 18: Osvaldo Hernandez holds a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama as he denouces to a television crew the president's effort to change the Cuban policy on December 18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. A day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced he wants to normalize relations with Cuba, the Miami Cuban community has a mixed reaction with some supporting and other opposing the new policy. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: People wait in line to check luggage at the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 18: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) U.S. visa applicants queue outside the U.S. Interests Section a day after U.S. President Barack Obama and his counterpart Raul Castro announced to restore the diplomatic relationship, on December 18, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: A sign indicates the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: People wait in line to check luggage at the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 19: U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during his speech to members of the media during his last news conference of the year in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House December 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama faced questions on various topics including the changing of Cuba policy, the U.S. economy and the Sony hack. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: People wait in line to check luggage at the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Cubans wait near the US Interest Office in Havana to apply for visas, on December 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Yamil LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
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By RYAN GORMAN

Cuba's leader has demanded the U.S. close Guantanamo Bay and end the decades-long embargo against the island nation before diplomatic relations can become normalized.

President Raul Castro told a crowd gathered Wednesday in Costa Rica for a Latin America summit that the U.S. failing to change course on these two key issues would make it difficult for his nation to move forward in previously announced talks.

"Cuba is willing to normalize relations but the main problem has not been solved: the economic and financial blockade," Castro said, according to the TeleSUR network.

"[But] we should not pretend that Cuba will renounce its ideals of independence and freedom of their principles in the process of diplomatic relations with the U.S."

Castro backed U.S. President Barack Obama's desire to end the embargo and renew bilateral ties, but reiterated that Cuba should not be the only country expected to reverse decades of ill-informed policies.

"The main problem has not been resolved: the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes huge human and economic damage and is a violation of international rights," Castro said, according to the AFP.

The embargo is "a violation of international rights," Castro continued, according to TeleSUR. "It would not be ethical, fair, or acceptable if these problems are not solved – the diplomatic rapprochement wouldn't make any sense."

Both leaders announced last month an effort to normalize relations during unprecedented simultaneous addresses to their nations.

The U.S. government has yet to publicly respond to Castro's demands.

Information from the Associated Press was also used in this story.
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