President Raul Castro said on Saturday he would not change Cuba’s communist system to make peace with the US, but repeated his willingness to discuss all issues with the island’s longtime enemy.
In a speech to the Cuban National Assembly, Castro acknowledged the US under President Barack Obama was less “aggressive” toward Cuba, but he expressed irritation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for saying repeatedly that Washington expected Havana to make changes in exchange for better relations.
“I have to say, with all due respect to Mrs Clinton ... they didn’t elect me president to restore capitalism in Cuba, nor to hand over the revolution,” said Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel Castro as president last year.
“I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not destroy it,” he added, prompting a long standing ovation from assembly members, most of whom are members of the Communist Party. “We are ready to talk about everything, but ... not to negotiate our political and social system,” he said.
Obama has said he wants to “recast’’ relations with Cuba and eased the 47-year-old US embargo by allowing Cuban-Americans to travel and send money freely to the island 145 km from Key West, Florida.
His administration has reopened immigration talks with the Cuban government that were suspended by his predecessor, George W Bush, and recently turned off a news ticker on the US Interests Section in Havana that Cuba viewed as an affront.