He has just spent three days in Havana, where he gave an interview to Cuban journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet, and also a press conference to Cuban and international media earlier in the day. On both occasions, Carter took the opportunity to call for changes in U.S. policy -- an end to the blockade, normalization of relations, and freedom for the Cuban Five.
Some excerpts from Carter's comments:
"I believe that there is no reason to keep the Cuban Five imprisoned, there were doubts in the U.S. courts and also among human rights organizations in the world. Now, they have been in prison 12 years and I hope that in the near future they will be released to return home.
"I also have had a chance to meet with the parents of the so-called Cuban Five, with two of the mothers and also with three of the wives, and I expressed my feelings to them, and I hope that in the future they will be released, according to U.S. law.
"As you know I am not only a President. I am also a Nobel laureate. Well, in my private talks to President Bush and also with President Obama, I have urged the release of these prisoners.
"I recognize that there are restraints within the American judicial system. However, my hope is that the president would grant a pardon. You have to realize that this is a decision that can only be made by the president. It is presumptuous of me to try to tell another president what to do.
"But the Presidents, now and before this [Obama and Bush], have known that my own opinion is that the original trial of the Cuban Five was very doubtful, norms were violated, and also some of the restraints on their visitations have been overly restrictive. I know that all of the families have been able to visit them. My wish in the future, before a pardon might be granted, is that there would be more access of their families to these prisoners in the United States.
"I have been informed by officials, for instance, that the shooting down of the small plane over Havana that caused the death of two pilots was done after the president of the United States [Bill Clinton] informed the Cuban leaders that no more flights would take place. I was informed by Cuban officials that they expressed to the president very clearly that they could not permit a plane to fly over their capital city, dropping leaflets, that they would have to protect the sovereignty of Cuba. So even those more serious allegations, in my opinion, are very doubtful about their need or cause of the extensive sentences that have been granted to the prisoners."
"So in every way, in my private report with Obama when I return to the United States, in my public statements like today, in my previous conversations with American leaders, I've called for the release of the Cuban Five." Read the full interview and press conference by clicking the links below