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    Cuban President Raul Castro told his country's National Assembly on Saturday that the United States must respect Cuba's choice of political and economic system, just as Cuba respects that of the US.

    MOSCOW, December 21 (Sputnik) — Cuban President Raul Castro told the island nation’s National Assembly on Saturday that the United States must respect Cuba’s decision to maintain its socialist political and economic trajectory, Telesur reports.

    “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 parliament at the close of the 2014 session. “The economic system that will prevail in our nation will continue to be based on socialist property of the people of the fundamental means of production,” Castro said, the San Francisco Chronicle noted.

    Castro’s remarks are said to be in response to recent US statements on the need for the island nation to make changes in the areas of politics, economics, and human rights over the course of the normalization of relations between the two countries.

    The president’s comments before parliament follow on from commentary made earlier by his daughter, a member of the Cuban parliament. “The people of Cuba don’t want to return to capitalism,” Mariela Castro told the Reuters news agency on Friday. “Sometimes people say Fidel is hard-headed, that the Cuban leaders are hard-headed, but experience has taught us something important: that we should never give in on our principles,” she said.

    Cuba’s foreign investment laws stipulate that foreign companies are welcome to the island, but agreements need to be negotiated with Cuban state companies or the Cuban government, with Cuba nearly always demanding a controlling stake in any ventures. Import agreements are conducted via state holding companies. This has discouraged potential investors in the past, Reuters explained.

    Long and Difficult Struggle Still Ahead

    Castro noted that the country faces a “long and difficult struggle” before the lifting of the embargo may become a reality. President Obama has pledged to end economic sanctions, but would need the approval of a Republican-controlled Congress to lift the embargo, which seems unlikely at the moment, Haaretz explained.

    Castro stated that while “an important step has been taken…the essential thing remains: the cessation of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, which has intensified in recent years, particularly in terms of financial transactions," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

    Cuba Will Attend Summit of the Americas

    Castro also confirmed that Cuba will participate in the Summit of the Americas next April, for the first time since the country’s expulsion from the Organization of American States in 1962. The summit is set to become the first face-to-face meeting between Castro and Obama since the normalization of diplomatic ties was announced earlier this week.

    "I confirm that I will attend [the summit] to express our positions with sincerity and respect for all heads of state and government without exception," Castro said, according to Xinhua.

    A number of Latin American leaders had earlier stated that they would not attend the Summit unless Cuba was present, and the Panamanian government, set to host the meeting, had noted its intention to invite Cuba.

    Among the attendees to the emotional and jubilant parliamentary meeting were members of the Cuban Five, five Cuban intelligence officers who had been jailed for between 14 and 16 years in the US on charges of espionage. Elian Gonzalez, the boy at the center of a tense and emotional legal battle between Cuba and the US in the 1990s, was also present, the BBC explained.

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