Raul Castro Asks Obama to Use Executive Authority to ‘Modify’ Embargo

By Curtis Kalin | December 17, 2014 | 3:18pm EST

Cuban dictator Raul Castro praised President Obama’s call for normalized relations with his country and took a victory lap after the U.S. released three convicted Cuban spies from prison.

Castro’s speech followed President Obama’s announcement of a deal which allowed American USAID worker Alan Gross to return to the United States after being imprisoned in Cuba for five years. Obama also announced that the United States would set up an embassy in the Cuban capital of Havana as well as begin an easing in many embargoed items, such as cigars.

While taking a rhetorical victory lap, Castro invoked his brother’s promise that the three Cuban spies would eventually return to Cuba:

“As Fidel promised on June 2001, when he said: ‘They shall return!’ Gerardo, Ramon, and Antonio have arrived today to our homeland.”

The three spies were convicted in the 1996 shoot-down of two civilian planes over international waters.

While Castro thanked the Vatican and the Canadian government for playing major roles in “facilitating” the talks, he reserved special thanks for President Obama declaring, “President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people.”

To close his speech, Castro called on Obama to use executive authority to curtail the remaining vestiges of the embargo on Cuba:

“This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been solved. The economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.”

“Though the blockade has been codified into law, the President of the United States has the executive authority to modify its implementation.”

Obama and Castro spoke for 45 minutes yesterday, the first communication between the two nation’s leaders since 1959. Press Secretary Josh Earnest would not even rule out a possible Presidential visit to the island nation in the future.

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