HAVANA The United States should normalize relations with Cuba while Fidel Castro is still alive, his brother and designated successor said, because it will get "more difficult" later on.
Gen. Raul Castro, Cuba's defense minister, did not elaborate during the interview on state television about why negotiations could get harder. However, Raul is generally considered more of a hard-liner than his older brother.
"It would be in imperialism's interest to try, with our irreconcilable differences, to normalize relations as much as possible during Fidel's life," he said in the interview, which was shown late Thursday night.
Fidel Castro, 74, has repeatedly referred to the 69-year-old Raul as his successor, and Raul Castro is first in the constitutional line of succession as second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and first vice president of both the governing Council of State and Council of Ministers.
Raul's comments were aired one day after the 40th anniversary of the break in U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations.
President Dwight Eisenhower broke the ties on Jan. 3, 1961, saying Fidel Castro had provoked him once too often.
Washington maintains that a political opening in Cuba's one-party system and free and competitive elections are necessary before diplomatic relations can be resumed.
While lower level Cuban officials rarely dare talk of the deaths of the Castro brothers, both Castros have indicated they think of it.
"After I die I do not want my name on a street, much less on a monument, or a factory or a farm or anything," Raul Castro said in the interview. The only homage he and his brother want "is that the revolution be maintained."
Reflecting on the 42nd anniversary of the revolution celebrated on Monday, Raul Castro said Cuba's "only adversary" remains the United States.