(FinalCall.com)—Former President Jimmy Carter became the first U.S. head
of state in nearly 75 years to visit the Caribbean island nation of
Cuba. His nine-member delegation traveled at the invitation of Cuban
President Fidel Castro and to the faint praise of a Bush administration.
From May 12-19, Mr. Carter, representing the Carter
Center, a nonprofit, non-governmental agency that he co-founded with his
wife Rosalynn in 1982, toured neighborhoods, schools, medical and
psychiatric centers, AIDS/HIV sanatoriums and agricultural centers. He
also met with government officials, religious groups and held two
notable meetings with Cuban dissidents.
The events that gleaned the most criticism,
however, occurred after Mr. Carter’s visit to Cuba’s Biotech Institute
(Centro de Ingenieria y Biotecnologia) and his unprecedented, uncensored
Spanish-spoken address to the Cuban people via national radio and
Mr. Carter told the Cuban people that their
government should adopt democratic principles such as freedom of
assembly and the press and improve their human rights record. The United
States, he declared, should improve U.S.-Cuba relations by removing
travel restrictions, opening trade ties and repealing the 43-year-old
The Biotech facility has been the center of
controversy since the May 6 accusation by State Department official John
Bolton, who labeled Cuba a “limited” producer of biological weapons
technology and an exponent of world terrorism during a speech before the
conservative Heritage Foundation. Mr. Carter questioned the timing of
the allegations and said neither the White House, State Department nor
intelligence officials mentioned the allegations to him during meetings
before he left the United States.
Approximately six months earlier while addressing
the Convention on Biological Weapons conference in Geneva, Mr. Bolton
made no mention of Cuba as a source of concern to the United States as
potential biological weapons producers.
“These allegations were made, maybe not
coincidentally, just before our visit to Cuba,” Mr. Carter told
President Castro and Cuba’s leading scientists during his visit to the
Biotech facility. “I asked them specifically on more than one occasion
if there was any evidence that Cuba has been involved in sharing any
information to any other country on Earth that could be used for
terrorist purposes. The answer from our experts on intelligence was
‘no’,” he said.
Mr. Castro vehemently denied the allegations of
terror links and biotech capabilities, calling them lies of
“The idea of destroying Cuba, an obsession that
has lasted more than 43 years, has led and still leads U.S. policy down
a tortuous path filled with lies, mistakes, failures and crimes,” Pres.
Castro, 76, fired back in a public address after his government
challenged the U.S. government to provide evidence of their allegations.
Both the White House and State Department spokesmen
said the accusation against Cuba is not based on assumptions but on
confidential information about the biological and chemical potential of
the Cuban pharmaceutical industry.
This accusation took not only the international
community by surprise, but Congress as well because several proposals to
relax Washington’s Cuba policy are being analyzed on Capital Hill.
Still, America remains divided over the aims,
successes and failures related to the embargo. Lawmakers continue to
debate its relevance while the Bush administration has announced its
plans to step up the sanctions. Armed with an administration review of
U.S. policy toward Cuba, penned by Mr. Otto Reich, U.S. assistant
secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Pres. Bush intends to
increase aid to help bolster Cuban dissidents in hopes of toppling Mr.
Castro’s four-decade reign and increase efforts to ensure that U.S.
government broadcasts get to the Cuban population.
For Blacks, lifting of the embargo could have a
great impact. Though the possibilities of this happening under Mr. Bush
appear unrealistic, there were times during the Reagan years it looked
“I saw this trip by President Carter as an
opportunity to open dialogue with Castro over a multitude of issues,”
political analyst Dr. Ron Walters told The Final Call. “America
now sees beyond the resentments and views formed during the Cold War.
Americans now see hope on the horizon and Pres. Bush should punctuate
that hope by abandoning the already failed embargo.
“The U.S. obsession with Cuba stems from the
expulsion of mafia and U.S. capitalists during the Cuban Revolution
(1959). The mafia and U.S. corporations owned Cuba and (the island)
served as an extension of its corruption prior to their expulsion. The
Cuba Missile Crisis further intensifies this, and the relationship Cuba
enjoyed with the Soviet Union before their fall. Now that the Cold War
is over, the only thing left is resentment,” Dr. Walters explained.
“For Cuba, the Carter visit signifies that they are
in charge of their government and not afraid to let someone who will be
objective to come and look,” said Viola Plummer of the December 12th
Movement. “A political education in terms of Blacks here relating to a
truly independent country—one that respects its history and relationship
to Black people and Africa—would give greater meaning to our struggle
Ms. Plummer pointed out that Blacks and their
leaders primarily are wedded to the Democratic Party. Thus, debate over
the embargo may eventually drift into the Black community being that the
trip reflects a political eyesore to right-wing interests and the Bush
“Carter is an operative of multinational
corporations. It’s the multinational corps that know [U.S. Cuban] policy
is flawed,” Ms. Plummer said. She also noted that Mr. Carter’s
insistence on lifting the embargo exposes the U.S. economy’s need for a
Political analysts maintain that some of the
president’s moves are connected to his desire to further ingratiate
himself with the Cuban exile community as his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb
Bush, seeks re-election this year.