Cuban president Raul Castro addressed the Summit of the Americas for the first time on Saturday, and called for an end to the U.S. blockade against his country.
Castro said the decades-old blockade has harmed the Cuban people, and is a “violation of international law.”
He said today the United States owes a historic debt to Cuba, though he praised U.S. president Barack Obama for vowing to end the blockade.
“While the blockade exists … we have to keep fighting and support President Obama in his intentions to end the blockade,” he said.
However, Castro argued relations between Washington and Havana are far from normalized, pointing to the continued presence of a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which he said “still usurps part of our territory.”
“One thing is to establish diplomatic relations, and the other question is the blockade,” he said.
Turning to Venezuela, Castro chastised Obama for imposing sanctions on officials in Caracas.
“Venezuela isn’t a threat to any country,” he said, referring to an executive order issued by Obama earlier this year.
The executive order labeled Venezuela a “threat” to the United States. Obama has since backtracked, admitting in a recent interview with EFE that Venezuela poses no threat to the United States.
Obama also addressed the Summit of the Americas earlier Saturday. However, Castro’s speech marks the first time a Cuban head of state has spoken at the summit, which is overseen by the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States.
Castro’s presence at the summit has been lauded by Latin American leaders from across the political spectrum, many of which have long argued Cuba shouldn’t be excluded from regional talks.
“This is a summit that brings together all the countries of the hemisphere, without exception. Three years ago, in Cartagena, I said it would be unacceptable to have another summit without Cuba,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
“Today we celebrate their presence, and the path they have begun towards the relaunching of diplomatic ties (with the United States),” he stated