Cuba President Raul Castro Tweaks U.S. in United Nations Speech

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By Jon Schuppe

Cuban President Raul Castro, who recently celebrated the restoration of diplomatic ties with the United States, tweaked its northern neighbor Monday in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, demanding the end to a crippling trade embargo, the return of the land used as the Guantanamo Bay military base and compensation for decades of economic damages.

"After 56 years in which the Cuban people put up a heroic and selfless resistance, diplomatic relations have been reestablished between Cuba and the United States of America," Castro said.

"Now, a long and complex process begins toward the normalization of relations that will only be achieved with the end of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba; the return to our country of the territory illegally occupied by Guantanamo Naval Base; the cessation of radio and TV broadcasts, and of subversion and destabilization programs against the island; and when our people are compensated for the human and economic damages they still endure."

Castro, loudly applauded before and after his speech, also voiced solidarity for developing countries in Latin America and Africa, including Puerto Rico, which he said should be granted independence from the United States "after more than a century of colonial domination."

The Cuban president had a fine line to walk in his speech: maintaining his voice of old-guard revolutionary Cuba while not alienating the U.S. lawmakers whose approval is needed to end the embargo, a key to his efforts to modernize Cuba's economy.

Obama expressed optimism in his own General Assembly speech Monday that Congress would lift the embargo.

Castro and Obama plan to meet Tuesday, their second get-together since diplomatic relations were restored late last year.

Castro also criticized some United States policies last week while hosting Pope Francis.

President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba Raul Castro delivers his address during the 70th session General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 28 September 2015.JASON SZENES / EPA