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Cubans in US Mixed on Carter Speech

May 15, 2002

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MIAMI (AP) _ Jimmy Carter’s speech calling for a move toward democracy in Cuba and the end of the U.S. trade embargo drew praise and scorn Wednesday among Cuban-Americans in Florida.

Sylvia Land thought the former president’s address was a positive sign that the United States is moving toward opening a dialogue with the island nation.

``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.″

Some other Cuban-Americans lunching at the same popular Cuban restaurant in west Miami-Dade County disagreed.

Carter’s trip was ``just for show,″ said Bob Munecas, sipping Cuban coffee with friends. ``I don’t think he should have gone. All he was there for was to try to lift the embargo. Castro is using him as a puppet.″

Carter, the highest ranking American to visit the island since the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, 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, Carter also said Cuba should adopt democratic principles such as freedoms of assembly and press, and improve human rights.

Land doubts that such change is imminent.

``It’s going to be a long time, maybe until after Castro’s gone,″ she said.

Munecas was skeptical about Castro’s statements that Carter had unfettered access to anyone on the island.

``The people he had access to were limited in expressing themselves,″ Munecas said. ``They don’t have the backbone to tell him what is really going on because Castro will punish them.″

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

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