Raul Castro says he's open to talks with U.S.

The Miami HeraldApril 17, 2009 

On the eve of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, Cuban President Raul Castro declared Thursday that his government is willing to discuss "everything" with Washington, including human rights, political prisoners and freedom of the press.

Castro said Havana has "sent word to the U.S. government in private and in public" that it is open to talking about anything, as long as it's "on equal terms."

His comments came Thursday during a speech to leaders at a summit hosted by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Castro spoke hours after President Barack Obama said he wants Havana to make the next move to improve U.S.-Cuba relations.

Obama told CNN en espanol that relations between the two nations could start thawing if Cuba follows Washington's lead and takes good-faith steps toward freedom.

"What we're looking for is some signal that there are going to be changes in how Cuba operates that assures that political prisoners are released, that people can speak their minds freely, that they can travel, that they can write and attend church, and do the things that people throughout the hemisphere can do and take for granted," Obama told the news network. "And if there's some sense of movement on those fronts in Cuba, then I think that we can see a further thawing of relations and further changes."

On Monday, Obama lifted the restrictions that kept Cuban Americans from traveling and sending money to Cuba more freely.

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