1 Apr 2011

US policy on Cuba wrong - Carter

8:37 pm on 1 April 2011

Former United States president Jimmy Carter says American policy towards Cuba, including a trade embargo and travel ban, is a mistake.

After a three-day visit to the island, Mr Carter said the decades-long US sanctions had damaged the Cuban people and hindered rather than helped reform.

He also urged the Cuban government to move towards democracy and allow complete freedom of speech.

After talks with Cuban leader Raul Castro, as well as leading dissidents, including several who have recently been released from prison, Mr Carter said he was optimistic that Cubans would gain more freedom.

"My own hope is that in the future, there will be a complete freedom for all Cuban people for speech and for assembly and for travel; that all the internationally adopted standards for human rights will be enforced in Cuba," he said.

Mr Castro hailed Mr Carter as an "honest man" and said the visit had helped address "common problems".

He added that the Cuban government was ready for dialogue with the US, but only if it was "without conditions".

Mr Carter, 86, also met Raul Castro's brother Fidel, and said he and the veteran communist leader had talked like "old friends".

It was Mr Carter's second trip to Cuba. He is the only serving or former US president to visit Cuba since the revolution in 1959.