Cuba willing to sit down with US, Castro says

Cuba willing to sit down with US, Castro says

Cuban President Raul Castro said that his government is willing to mend fences with bitter Cold War foe the United States and sit down to discuss anything, as long as it is a conversation between equals.

At the end of a Revolution Day ceremony marking the 59th anniversary of a failed uprising against a military barracks, Castro grabbed the microphone for apparently impromptu remarks on July 26, The Associated Press reported. He echoed previous statements that no topic is off-limits, including U.S. concerns about democracy, freedom of the press and human rights on the island, as long as it is a conversation between equals.

“Any day they (Americans) want it, we will sit with them at a negotiating table,” the Cuban president proclaimed, clad in military uniform, according to Agence France-Presse. But he insisted the conversation would go both ways: “Equal to equal, we will also discuss subjects concerning the United States.”

Cuba must ensure rights
Washington would have to be prepared to hear Cuba’s own complaints about the treatment of those issues in the U.S. and its European allies, he added. “We are nobody’s colony, nobody’s puppet,” Castro said. U.S. embargo outlaws nearly all trade and travel to the island for five decades.

Later State Department Assistant Secretary Mike Hammer said that while the U.S. was willing to talk with Cuba, the Communist authorities first had to ensure rights for their people. “Our message is very clear to the Castro government: They need to begin to allow for the political freedom of expression that the Cuban people demand, and we are prepared to discuss with them how this can be furthered,” Hammer said.