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Jimmy Carter: Lift Trade Embargo Against Cuba

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Peter Kornbluh, The Nation, March 30, 2011

“I hope we can contribute to better relations between the two countries,” Jimmy Carter said describing his mission in visiting Havana this week. At a remarkable press conference as he left to return to the United States today he issued a powerful, resounding, call for major changes in US policy toward Cuba.

Briefing reporters at the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana, Carter touched on virtually every key aspect of US-Cuban relations: the embargo, the case of imprisoned AID contractor Alan Gross, the Cuban Five, Cuba’s inclusion on the terrorism list and the need for greater freedoms—not only for Cubans but for American citizens who are restricted from traveling to the island.

“I think one serious mistake that my country continues to make is the trade embargo,” Carter stated bluntly. The economic restrictions on commerce were “damaging to the well-being of every citizen in Cuba,” and “impeded rather than assisted” reforms that he hoped would be made on the island under Raul Castro’s leadership. “We should immediately lift the embargo,” Carter said, as well as all restrictions on travel to Cuba.

When the Carter trip was announced last week, many analysts believed he intended to bring imprisoned AID contractor Alan Gross back to the United States. Arrested in December 2009, Gross was prosecuted and convicted earlier this month for illegally distributing satellite communications gear to religious groups inside Cuba—part of a US government “democracy-promotion” program intended to undermine the Cuban regime. According to State Department officials, his arrest, conviction and sentence of fifteen years in prison has become a major stumbling block in improving US relations with Cuba.

But Carter made it clear that the Cuban government had warned him in advance not to expect Gross to be freed at this time. After visiting Gross at an undisclosed location this morning, Carter addressed the need for him to be released “because he is innocent of any serious threat to the Cuban people.” Gross’s conviction should be overturned by Cuba’s Supreme Court on appeal, Carter forcefully opined, or Raúl Castro should pardon him, or soon release him to his family on humanitarian grounds.

In perhaps his boldest—and riskiest—statement as a former US president, Carter also called for the release of the so-called Cuban Five, a handful of Cuban counterterrorism agents arrested by the FBI and convicted of spying against violent exile groups and other US targets in 1998. Carter noted that the five agents had been in US prisons for more than a dozen years and characterized their further incarceration as “unwarranted.”
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Written by peripheralrevision

03/31/2011 at 11:23 am