Havana, Cuba (JFK+50) Thirteen years ago today, May 12, 2002, a former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, came here to Havana where he and his wife, Rosalynn, were welcomed by President Fidel Castro.
The visit marked "the first time a U.S. head of state, in or out of office" had visited Cuba since the 1959 revolution. The last time a POTUS had visited Cuba was when Calvin Coolidge came there in 1928.
Castro said to Carter, who was responsible for easing tensions with the communist government, "It's been a long time since (this has) happened."
Despite the show of good will, there were still tensions behind the scenes. The previous week, Undersecretary of State John Bolton had charged Castro's government of an attempt to develop biological weapons. Castro, who had denied the charge, offered to allow Mr. Carter "complete access" to biotechnological labs on the island.
President Carter did, in fact, visit the Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology located near Havana.
On the evening of his arrival in Havana, Mr. and Mrs. Carter were given a dinner at the Palace of the Revolution and then on Monday morning, the former president met with Elizardo Sanchez and Oswaldo Paya, veteran rights activists who supported "guarantees of individual freedoms, amnesty for political prisoners, and electoral reforms."
On Tuesday, President Carter addressed a television audience in a live broadcast. He was given clearance to "express (himself) freely" by President Castro.
The Cuban President said of Jimmy Carter....
"A man who, in the middle of the Cold War and from the depth of an ocean of prejudice, misinformation and distrust (and) dared to try to improve relations between both countries deserves respect."
"Carter Meets With Castro Dissidents," by John Esterbrook, CBS News, May 13, 2002, www.cbsnews.com/
George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush