Former President Carter said he’s recently visited Raul and Fidel Castro, and thinks “normal diplomatic relations will be very good” with the dictator brothers.
“When I was a president, as you just mentioned, we started the diplomatic relations process and we established major intersections in both Havana and also in Washington. The last time I was Cuba, just two or three years ago, we had over 300 diplomats serving in the intersection in Havana. And that will continue, I think, no matter what happens,” Carter told CNN.
He added that he hopes Congress “will go ahead and remove the embargo, all the sanctions, because that doesn’t hurt the Castro brothers.”
“It just hurts the people of Cuba, about 11 million of them, who had to suffer because of our own imposed economic sanctions,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has vowed that in the GOP majority Congress the embargo will stand.
Carter called President Obama’s unilateral actions “a major step forward to bring about more freedom and more democracy and more respect for human rights in Cuba as well.”
“In a country where we impose sanctions, it’s almost impossible to imagine that the dictators themselves or their immediate staff or their top friends are going to be suffering economically. They’ve got all they want,” the former president said.
“I’ve been to the home of both Raul Castro and also Fidel Castro in the last few years and they’re not suffering at all. But the 11 million people of Cuba suffer. We have a lot of farmers in Georgia who have been going down to Cuba under very tight restrictions to sell corn and chickens and other things to the Cuban people.”
He maintained that Obama’s actions “will help American farmers” along with “the average Cuban.”
“And it will also lead towards better respect for human rights, in my opinion, as we have a flood of American citizens going and letting Cuban people know what democracy really means,” Carter continued.
He called Rubio’s criticism of Obama’s policy “absolutely ridiculous” with “no rational or logic to what he had to say.”
“This is a very wise and very courageous thing for President Obama to do. And in my opinion, is long overdue. In my time in the White House, we would have had diplomatic relationships then, if they build on the enormous diplomatic staff, we have maintained ever since 1979 in Havana and in Washington,” Carter said.
“But people in Cuba still really respect and revere almost Fidel Castro. But there’s no doubt that under Raul’s presidency, there have been a lot of openness and reforms implemented in Cuba, particularly, economic in nature. A lot of things are permitted in Cuba now that were not permitted as long as Fidel was in office. So I think with Raul, this is what he told me personally, and what he was told all the visitors is he’s looking for an opportunity to open up Cuba but very carefully step by step. I think that’s what we have to expect.”