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Jimmy Carter Mulls Cuba Visit

Sunday, 03 February 2002 12:00 AM

"President Carter received an invitation from Fidel Castro late last week to visit Cuba and it (the invitation) is under consideration," Carter spokesperson Deanna Congileo said Tuesday.

Congileo did not know when Carter would respond to the invitation and didn't know when Castro would want the former president to make a visit.

Dennis Hays, the executive director of the Cuban-American National Foundation, believes Carter's visit to Cuba could serve a purpose.

"It depends on what the reaction of the former president is. What we would hope is that should this come to pass that the president would use his good offices as he has done in so many places, to highlight the situation with respect to the abuses of human rights in Cuba," said Hays.

"I think he could play a very important role using his great credibility to bring the attention of the world to those who languish in Cuban prisons," Hays added.

Congileo also said the invitation "stems from the Atlanta-based Carter Center's 'Americas program' and is part of an effort to create dialogue between leaders of the Cuban-American exile community and the Castro government."

Hays said such a program is news to him.

"I never heard of that. It's news to me that the Carter Center has taken such a project and if they in fact want to do that, I think what they should do is establish the fact that like every other country in the hemisphere, Cuba needs to have a democratic system of government. Then there would be something to talk about," Hays said.

But John Suarez, a spokesman for the Center For A Free Cuba thinks if Carter does travel to Cuba he should ask Castro, "why the International Red Cross was able to speedily go to Guantanamo to inspect the al-Qaeda prisoners but have not been able to meet with Cuban political prisoners since 1989."

Suarez thinks Carter should inquire about Oscar Elias Biscet, a Cuban medical doctor who remains jailed because of his opposition to the Castro regime.

"He (Biscet) has been in prison for more than two years for simply speaking his mind and holding a press conference," said Suarez.

The State Department did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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President Carter received an invitation from Fidel Castro late last week to visit Cuba and it (the invitation) is under consideration, Carter spokesperson Deanna Congileo said Tuesday. Congileo did not know when Carter would respond to the invitation and didn't know...
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Sunday, 03 February 2002 12:00 AM
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