Tuesday, August 10th 2010 – 05:02 UTC
Raul Castro wants "an opening" with Washington to help with the economy
Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Roman Catholic archbishop of Havana, told The
Washington Post that Cuban President Raul Castro wants "an opening" with
the United States.
"He has a desire for an opening with the US government," Ortega was
quoted as saying. "He repeated to me on several occasions that he is
ready to talk to the United States government directly, about every issue".
Ortega and the Catholic Church led negotiations with the Cuban
government that secured in recent weeks the release of more than 50
dissidents who have been jailed for years.
The church official made the comments in an interview with the columnist
Jackson Diehl, who published them in Monday's edition of the US daily.
According to Ortega, Castro's motivation to improve relations with the
United States lies in the chance that Cuba's economy can be revived by
US trade and investment.
When asked whether such talks could include democratic reform as
requested by the administration of US President Barack Obama, the
cardinal said things need to be taken "step by step."
"It's not realistic to begin at the end. This is a process. The most
important thing is to take steps in the process" Ortega said.
He highlighted the current situation as "something new" and as something
that is set to "open possibilities" in the communist island.
Ortega was in Washington last week to collect a prize, in what was his
second visit to the US capital in a little over one month.
He met with high officials of the Obama administration, including
Obama's National Security Adviser Jim Jones and Arturo Valenzuela, the
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. In his
first visit to Washington in late June, he had already met with Valenzuela.