Carter Stirs the Cuban Pot

Former President Jimmy Carter's trip to Cuba won't likely change either Cuba or the US isolation of it. In fact, President Bush will probably announce even tighter economic sanctions against the Castro regime on Monday when he addresses Cuban-Americans in Florida.

Still, Mr. Carter helped open the discussion about Cuba with his dual call for greater commerce between Cuba and the US and greater human rights and freedom for Cubans.

The average Cuban watching Carter speak on TV heard things about activists in their midst – many of whom recently petitioned the National Assembly for a national vote on human rights – that Fidel Castro would normally never have allowed on the state-controlled airwaves.

And the average American might be excused for asking why there's still much debate in the US over keeping such a strict economic embargo on a nation whose human rights record is similar to China's, a country that enjoys immense commerce with the US.

The debatable topic of whether to open trade with Cuba is held hostage by a powerful Cuban-American lobby in the key election state of Florida. Carter's courage was to challenge that lobby forthrightly, and hopefully let Washington move toward a trade policy that provides more incentives for Castro to change after 40 years of one-party rule. US foreign policy cannot remain beholden to one group.

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