Fidel Castro praises Carter’s role in U.S.-Cuba ties

 Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro highly praised former U.S. President Jimmy Carter for his “brave gesture” Thursday, saying Carter was the only U.S. president who had “enough courage” to address the troubled ties between the United States and Cuba.

Calling Carter “a friend” after his former U.S. counterpart wrapped up a three-day visit to Cuba, Castro said Carter was the only one to do everything in his power during his presidency (1977-1981)to ease tensions between Cuba and the United States.

Moreover, Carter was the only president who allowed U.S. citizens to visit Cuba, a policy which was later canceled by Ronald Reagan.

Fidel Castro

“He is the only one, in my view, with the serenity and enough courage to address the issue of U.S. relations with Cuba,” Castro wrote in one of his opinion pieces, the “Reflections,” which are published by the country’s official daily Granma.

Fidel Castro, 85, formally resigned as Cuba’s leader in February 2008 and transferred power to his brother Raul Castro. He is still active, regularly publishing “Reflections.”

In Thursday’s opinion piece, entitled “The Disaster in Japan and a Visit from a Friend,” Castro reflected on Carter’s three-day visit to Cuba and his meeting with Carter on Wednesday. It was the second time Fidel Castro and Carter had met after their first encounter in 2002.

“His administration was the only one who took steps to mitigate the criminal blockade imposed on our people,” Castro said, referring to the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which has been in place since 1962.

“The Cuban revolution has always appreciated Carter’s brave gesture,” Castro said, adding that he had “reiterated his respect and appreciation” for Carter during their meeting.

Carter ended his formal visit to Cuba on Wednesday, a visit he made at the personal invitation of Cuba’s current leader Raul Castro.

During the visit, Carter met with both Castro brothers as well as with religious leaders, dissident groups and U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence for “acts against the security and integrity of the country.”

Carter, in an interview broadcast on Cuba’s state television, said he had discussed bilateral relations and global warming with Castro.

“We talked about the steps I took when I was U.S. president and global warming,” Carter said, adding that he had asked President Barack Obama’s administration to release five Cuban intelligence agents who have been jailed in the United States for 12 years.

Carter condemned the U.S. embargo and called on Washington to end it, while urging the Obama administration to remove Cuba from the list of countries that the United States says support terrorism.

During his visit, the former U.S. president also appealed to the Cuban authorities to release Gross on humanitarian grounds, and expressed optimism about the possibility that Cuba may issue an “executive order” to release Gross.

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