Cuba to stand by its communist principles, Castro says; ‘US got isolated trying to isolate Cuba’ -- Rene Gonzalez

Raul Castro.

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December 20, 2014 -- RT, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Cuba's leader Raul Castro said the country would not give up its political values for which it has fought. Calling for mutual respect in the new development of relations with the United States, Castro stated Cuba would continue its socialist route.

"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 on December 20.

Having expressed gratitude to US President Barack Obama for his initiative to open a "new chapter" in the two countries' history by making a decision to lift the blockade, Castro stressed that the US president's move would in no way make Cuba abandon the ideas it has struggled for over half a century.

"Cuba is a sovereign country, with its people having determined its path to socialism and its political system by expression of will", Raul Castro said, adding that blood has also been shed to stand for the national ideas.

Cuba's communist rule must be respected by US, while the two countries work on advancing their relations, the leader said, adding that his state was ready for the dialogue on a wide range of issues, on terms of "mutual respect".

The leader said that he would attend the Summit of Americas next year in Panama, which will be the seventh meeting of the 34-nation bloc, with Cuba to participate for the first time. Castro is expected to have further discussions with President Obama at the meeting, although the list of US delegates has not been announced yet.

Having reassured the National Assembly and the people of Cuba that the new political turn would not lead to the country renouncing its ideas, the president saluted his older brother, Fidel Castro, closing his speech with "Viva Fidel!" The latter has not been seen since Washington's decision to reset diplomatic ties with Havana and exchange prisoners was announced earlier this week.

Rene Gonzalez of the Cuban Five.

‘US got isolated trying to isolate Cuba’ – Rene Gonzalez of the Cuban Five

December 18, 2014 -- RT, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A step of reconciliation with Cuba was inevitable, as the US was becoming increasingly isolated in its failed attempts to isolate Cuba while their competitors were building closer ties with the island, Cuban intelligence agent Rene Gonzalez told RT.

Gonzalez was arrested in 1998 with four other members of the Wasp Network, secretly deployed by Cuba in Miami to monitor the expat community. After spending 13 years behind bars on charges of espionage, he was released in 2011, and has now been reunited with three other members of the group, exchanged for US intelligence agent Alan Gross, and another unnamed spy.

“I found the returnees in good spirits and happy”, Gonzalez said, refusing to be drawn on the particulars of the surprise prisoner exchange, which came alongside news that Washington was to open an embassy in Havana, and “normalise” relations with Cuba.

“In terms of its attitude towards Cuba the United States gradually found itself in isolation, while their goal was to isolate Cuba”, Gonzalez said.

Not only was the world community changing its attitude towards Cuba and demanding a similar policy change from Washington, but business circles within the US itself did not want to miss opportunities to their competitors, Gonzalez believes.

“They saw their economic competitors increasingly converging with Cuba while they could not do that. In the end, this process has led to a lot of people, those who are in power, coming to a conclusion that the situation in the relations between Cuba and the United States cannot remain the same.”

Lifting the blockade will take time but the first step has already been made and there is no turning back, believes Gonzalez, choosing to focus on events that eventually “will bring happiness to millions” besides the four families already reunited with their loved ones. “All four of them [the Cuban Five anti-terrorists] worked for their government in another country, protecting national interests. I don’t care who got paid what, or what they did [during their intelligence work]. I want to think about the four families that will be happy at New Year’s. I even prefer thinking of Alan Gross being reunited with his, as well as my comrades”, explained Gonzalez.

“The five of us set an aim for ourselves – to come out better people than we went in, and we have achieved it… All the burdens of the trial, and all the mud-slinging from the US has not broken us”, he said. “Now they can share their joy and happiness, and thus help make Cuba a place we all want it to be.”