Jimmy Carter: Cuba needs to become a democracy

From a speech by the former US president to the Cuban people, given at the University of Havana
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The Independent Online

Our two nations have been trapped in a destructive state of belligerence for 42 years, and it is time for us to change our relationship and the way we think and talk about each other.

Democracy is a framework that permits a people to accommodate changing times and correct past mistakes. Since our independence, the United States has rid itself of slavery, granted women the right to vote, ended almost a century of legal racial discrimination and just this year reformed its election laws to correct problems we faced in Florida 18 months ago.

Cuba has adopted a socialist government where one political party dominates and people are not permitted to organise any opposition movements. Your constitution recognises freedom of speech and association, but other laws deny these freedoms to those who disagree with the government. Cuba has superb systems of health care and universal education, but last month, most Latin American governments joined a majority in the United Nations Human Rights Commission in calling on Cuba to meet universally accepted standards in civil liberties.

Public opinion surveys show that a majority of people in the United States would like to see the economic embargo ended, normal travel between our two countries, friendship between our people and Cuba to be welcomed into the community of democracies in the Americas. At the same time, most of my fellow citizens believe that the issues of economic and political freedom need to be addressed by the Cuban people.

After 43 years of animosity, we hope that soon you can say: "We are ready to join the community of democracies." And I hope that Americans will open our arms to you and say: "We welcome you as our friends."