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Castro Urges US to End Broadcasts Directed at Cuba

FILE - A man walks past Cuban and U.S. flags at the 33rd Havana International Fair (FIHAV) in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 2, 2015.

Cuban President Raul Castro is urging the U.S. government to stop radio and television broadcasts that Cuba considers harmful, while also saying that his government is willing to keep improving relations with the United States.

In a speech broadcast on state television Friday, Castro said that his government will "continue insisting that to reach normalized relations, it is imperative that the United States government eliminate all of these policies from the past."

He noted that the U.S. government continues to broadcast to Cuba, including transmissions of Radio Marti and TV Marti, despite Cuba's objections. Radio Marti and TV Marti are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is also the parent organization of the Voice of America.

Castro also criticized U.S. immigration policy that allows Cuban migrants to live in the United States if they reach U.S. territory.

"A preferential migration policy continues to be applied to Cuban citizens, which is evidenced by the enforcement of the wet foot/dry foot policy, the Medical Professional Parole Program and the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourage an illegal, unsafe, disorderly and irregular migration, foment human smuggling and other related crimes, and create problems to other countries," Castro said.

Trade embargo

Castro also repeated his call for the U.S. trade embargo against the communist nation to be lifted, saying President Barack Obama can do more to help end the embargo.

Obama has publicly urged Congress to lift the 56-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, but so far, lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Congress have taken no major steps toward that end.

"The steps taken so far by President Obama, although positive, have proved to be limited in scope, which has prevented their implementation," Castro said.

Signs of warmth

In his speech, Castro also noted advancements since last year, when he and Obama announced they would normalize relations after more than five decades of Cold War hostilities.

In the past year, embassies in Havana and Washington reopened and top-level meetings have taken place between officials from both countries, including Obama and Castro. Also, the United States has removed Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, and eased some travel restrictions to the communist country.

On Thursday, the two countries struck a deal to restore regular commercial flights. The U.S. State Department said that agreement would lead to increased authorized travel to the island nation, such as for educational trips, even though tourist flights are still banned.

Ties between the United States and Cuba were severed shortly after communist leader Fidel Castro overthrew the island's longtime dictator in 1959.

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