Cuba says – U.S. must respect its communist system

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Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday demanded that the United States respect Cuba’s communist rule as the two countries work towards normalising diplomatic ties.

U.S. President Barack Obama this week reset Washington’s Cold War-era policy on Cuba and the two countries swapped prisoners in a historic deal after 18 months of secret talks.

U.S. officials will visit Havana in January to start talks on normalization, and Obama has said his government will push Cuba on issues of human and political rights as they negotiate over the coming months.

Castro said on Saturday he is open to discussing a wide range of issues but that they should also cover the United States and he stressed that Cuba would not be giving up its socialist principles.

“In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours,” Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly in a session that turned into a celebration of resistance to U.S. aggression.

Castro also said Cuba faces a “long and difficult struggle” before the United States removes a decades-old economic embargo against the Caribbean island, in part because influential Cuban-American exiles will attempt to “sabotage the process” towards normalisation.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Kieran Murray)

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