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Cuba’s Castro celebrates thaw with US but holds tough during speech in Costa Rica

Cuban President Raúl Castro celebrated the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations in his address to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in San José on Wednesday but took a hard line against the United States.

“The main issue has not yet been resolved,” the 83-year-old revolutionary told the roundtable of leaders from across the Western Hemisphere. The president said that he would not give up a “millimeter” of Cuban sovereignty to move the discussions forward.

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson met with her Cuban counterpart in Havana on Jan. 23 as part of initial steps to reopen diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Castro said that U.S. President Barack Obama recognized the state of affairs between the island and the United States as a “disaster,” but stressed that there was more the president should do to normalize relations, especially regarding the embargo.

“The economic embargo, which has caused enormous economic and human damage and is a violation of international law – it should be ended,” Castro said during his speech that stretched over a half hour.

The Cuban president said that before relations could continue to improve, the United States must scratch Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism, abandon the Guantanamo Naval base, and end the embargo.

President Obama previously said that the United States was re-examining its designation of the island as a terrorism sponsor, but lifting the embargo would require an act of Congress.

CELAC is considering a special declaration expressing its support to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Castro also said that the CELAC community was incomplete without Puerto Rico, and that the U.S. territory’s “colonial” status was “unacceptable.” One of the 22 special declarations under consideration by the Latin America-Caribbean body is a sign of support for Puerto Rican independence. The final declarations will be presented Thursday.

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