U.S. Won’t Return Guantanamo To Improve Cuban Ties

The Obama administration on Wednesday ruled out handing over the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, rejecting a central demand of Cuban President Raul Castro for restoring normal relations between the two countries.

Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, also said the U.S. would continue transmitting radio and television broadcasts into Cuba that are opposed by Castro’s government.  Washington believes that the broadcasts and Guantanamo are not likely to stand in the way of U.S. and Cuban embassies being re-established after a half-century interruption.

However, Raul Castro laid out last week his long-term objectives for the rapprochement, according to the AP.

They do include the U.S. returning the Guantanamo base and prison, lifting the embargo and compensating his country for damages. The U.S. established the naval base in 1903; Cuba’s communist government has sought its return since coming to power in 1959.

The U.S. is hoping to clinch an agreement with Cuba on embassies in the coming months.

An Associated Press-GfK poll found broad support in the United States for warmer ties with Cuba.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed supported full diplomatic relations between the Cold War foes, with only 15 percent opposing. Sixty percent backed the end of the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, with 35 percent for its continuation.

But the views expressed at Wednesday’s government hearing were different than those in the poll.  Senior Republicans and Democrats took turns excoriating President Barack Obama for negotiating in secret a December spy swap that also included promises from him and Castro to turn a new page in the U.S.-Cuban relationship.

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