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Mixed Reviews for Carter’s Speech

May 16, 2002

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MIAMI (AP) _ Sylvia Land, a Cuban-American, cheered former President Jimmy Carter’s visit to her homeland and his call for the island nation to move toward democracy. But like many in this community, she thought his visit, though long overdue, would do little to change Cuba.

``We should have done this a long time ago,″ said Land, 47, an academic adviser at Florida International University. ``Carter seems like a person who gets people together and gets things done.″

But Land said she doubts such change is imminent. ``It’s going to be a long time, maybe until after Castro’s gone,″ she said.

Carter is the highest ranking American to visit the island since the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. The former president said Cuba and the United States should take steps to improve their relationship, including removing travel restrictions, opening trade ties and repealing the 43-year-old U.S. embargo.

In an unprecedented live, uncensored hour on Cuban television on Tuesday, Carter also said Cuba should adopt democratic principles such as freedoms of assembly and press, and improve human rights.

``His speech was beautiful and inspirational. But there is going to be no change,″ said Mariluz Marrero who came to Miami with her husband and two children in 1997 after winning a visa lottery.

She agreed with Land’s assessment that Carter’s visit to her communist homeland would not bring about change anytime soon but lauded Carter for having ``good intentions.″

Bob Munecas, who was sipping Cuban coffee with friends at a popular Cuban restaurant in west Miami-Dade County, took a more skeptical view of Carter’s trip, saying he believed it was ``just for show.″

``I don’t think he should have gone.″ Munecas said. ``All he was there for was to try to lift the embargo. Castro is using him as a puppet.″

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