In 2009, President Barack Obama promised to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, but he still hasn't quite gotten around to it.
Now he has an even tougher and possibly more controversial decision to make. Cuban President Raúl Castro has demanded that in order to officially normalize relations between the two countries, the United States must first return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba. He also demanded the end of anti-Castro broadcasts into the country from Miami-based Radio Martí and TV Martí and made vague calls for economic compensation.
Yes, just when it seemed everything was sailing smoothly toward normalization, ol' Castro came in to shake things up.
The United States has controlled the southern portion of Guantánamo Bay since the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty, and even though the regimes have changed, America has maintained control. The U.S. houses a naval base in addition to the infamous detention center there.
Castro made the new demands public today at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and noted that "if these problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement wouldn't make any sense.
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"The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don't give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo naval base," Castro continued.
He also demanded the end of "anti-Castro" broadcasts from TV Martí and Radio Martí. He further demanded that the U.S. government pay for "human and economic" damages that have befallen the Cuban people -- which will undoubtedly piss off el exilo, who firmly believe it's the Castro regime that should be ponying up for human and economic damages.
It's unclear if the Obama administration had any private discussion of these demands beforehand. The White House has not yet commented on Castro's speech.