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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Carter's speech to Cubans
Former US President Jimmy Carter has delivered a historic speech at Havana University in which he called on America to lift its end its 40-year trade embargo on Cuba. The following are excerpts from the speech.
Since [the Cuban revolution in 1959], our nations have followed different philosophical and political paths.
The hard truth is that neither the United States nor Cuba has managed to define a positive and beneficial relationship. Will this new century find our neighbouring people living in harmony and friendship?
Our two nations have been trapped in a destructive state of belligerence for 42 years, and it is time for us to change our relationship and the way we think and talk about each other. Because the United States is the most powerful nation, we should take the first step.
First, my hope is that Congress will soon act to permit unrestricted travel between the United States and Cuba, establish open trading relationships, and repeal the embargo.
The embargo freezes the existing impasse, induces anger and resentment, restricts the freedoms of US citizens, and makes it difficult for us to exchange ideas and respect.
Second, I hope that Cuba and the United States can resolve the 40-year-old property disputes with some creativity.
I propose that our two countries establish a blue-ribbon commission to address the legitimate concerns of all sides in a positive and constructive manner.
Third, some of those who left this beautiful island have demonstrated vividly that the key to a flourishing economy is to use individual entrepreneurial skills. But many Cubans in South Florida remain angry over their departure and their divided families. We need to define a future so they can serve as a bridge of reconciliation between Cuba and the United States.
Are such normal relationships possible? I believe they are.
Cuba has adopted a socialist government where one political party dominates, and people are not permitted to organize any opposition movements.
My nation is hardly perfect in human rights. A very large number of our citizens are incarcerated in prison, and there is little doubt that the death penalty is imposed most harshly on those who are poor, black or mentally ill.
For more than a quarter-century, we have struggled unsuccessfully to guarantee the basic right of universal health care for our people. Still, guaranteed civil liberties offer every citizen an opportunity to change these laws.
That fundamental right is also guaranteed to Cubans.
It is gratifying to note that Articles 63 and 88 of your constitution allows citizens to petition the National Assembly to permit a referendum to change laws if 10,000 or more citizens sign it.
I am informed that such an effort, called the Varela Project, has gathered sufficient signatures and has presented such a petition to the National Assembly. When Cubans exercise this freedom to change laws peacefully by a direct vote, the world will see that Cubans, and not foreigners, will decide the future of this country.
'Reach across the divide'
Cuba has superb systems of healthcare and universal education, but last month most Latin American governments joined a majority in the United Nations Human Rights Commission in calling on Cuba to meet universally accepted standards in civil liberties.
Public opinion surveys show that a majority of people in the US would like to see the economic embargo ended, normal travel between our two countries, friendship between our people, and Cuba to be welcomed into the community of democracies in the Americas.
At the same time, most of my fellow citizens believe that the issues of economic and political freedom need to be addressed by the Cuban people.
After 43 years of animosity, we hope that someday soon you can reach across the great divide that separates our two countries and say: "We are ready to join the community of democracies." And I hope that Americans will soon open our arms to you and say: "We welcome you as our friends."
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