The President also announced he will attend the Summit of the Americas, a first for a Cuban head of State.
Cuban President Raul Castro told the country’s legislators Saturday that the United States must respect the island’s socialist political and economic system.
“In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours,” Raul Castro told the National Assembly.
Raul Castro added that he will participate in the Summit of the Americas in April, the first opportunity for the leader to meet with United States President Barack Obama following the historic announcement.
Cuba has never participated these summits due to the island’s exclusion from the Organization of American States in 1962.
The Government of Panama had previously stated that it intended to invite Cuba to the summit, while numerous leaders from the hemisphere having previously stated they would not attend unless Cuba was present.
Raul Castro also said Cuba faces a “long and difficult struggle” before the United States removes a decades-old economic embargo against the Caribbean island, in part because influential Cuban-American exiles will attempt to “sabotage the process” toward normalization.
The Cuban National Assembly announced on Friday that it would back the agreement of President Raul Castro and U.S to restore diplomatic ties. Yolanda Ferrer, President of the International Relations Commission of the National Assembly also warmly welcomed the return of three Cuban political prisoners held by the United States for more than 15 years for attempting to thwart terrorist attacks on the island by Cuban-expatriate extremists.