HAVANA – Fidel Castro on Thursday praised Jimmy Carter, calling him the only U.S. president who has had “enough serenity and courage to deal with the issue of relations with Cuba.”
The former U.S. president on Wednesday wrapped up a three-day visit to Cuba, during which he met with both current head of state Raul Castro and the latter’s now-retired older brother, who was Carter’s host for a 2002 sojourn on the Communist-ruled island.
Carter, 86, is the most senior U.S. politician to set foot in Cuba since the triumph of Castro’s revolution in 1959.
During his 1977-1981 administration, Carter “did what he could to reduce international tensions and promote the creation of the interests sections in Cuba and the United States,” Fidel Castro said in a commentary published in the official media.
“His administration was the only one that took some steps to lessen the criminal blockade imposed on our people,” the 84-year-old Fidel said, referring to the economic embargo Washington has maintained against Cuba since 1962.
“The Revolution always appreciated his valiant gesture. In the year 2002, it received him warmly. Now, I reiterated to him its respect and esteem,” the former Cuban leader said.
He also emphasized that it was the “extreme fascist right in the United States” that caused Carter’s proposals vis-a-vis Cuba to fail.
The United States and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations for nearly half a century, but interests sections were established in the respective capitals during Carter’s term.
Fidel Castro also asked in his article if the “oligarchy” that governs the United States will be able to renounce its “insatiable eagerness for imposing its will on the rest of the world.”
“Will a system that produces with growing frequency presidents like Nixon, Reagan and (George) W. Bush, each time with greater destructive power and less respect for the sovereignty of peoples, be able to do honor to that proposal?” he added.
Official Cuban media outlets devoted broad coverage to Carter’s visit, following him as he held talks with President Raul Castro and met with members of the dissident movement, religious leaders and foreign diplomats.
Before leaving Havana, Carter defended the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, called for the end of the economic embargo and pushed for more freedoms on the island.
Cuban newspapers on Thursday published a photograph of the meeting between Carter and Fidel Castro. EFE