405512 01: Cuban leader Fidel Castro (L) speaks with the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during a departure ceremony at Jose Marti International airport May 17, 2002 in Havana, Cuba. Carter visited for six days in an effort to improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba. (Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON – Former President Jimmy Carter said that there is a major and exaggerated influence on the presidential election in the battleground state of Florida from the state’s anti-Castro leaders.
Criticizing U.S. policy, Carter says he thinks most Cuban-Americans want open borders and an end to the trade embargo.
He says he hopes the next president will act forcefully to improve relations with Cuba, no matter who wins. But he says he prefers that President Barack Obama win re-election.
Carter is also calling for Cuba to be removed from the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terror. Cuba has been on that list since 1982.
Carter spoke to a meeting of Latin America's development bank in Washington. His comments came as Mitt Romney's campaign is working to link Obama to unpopular aspects of Carter's legacy.
Known as the “human rights president,” Carter helped the U.S. resume diplomatic contacts with Cuba in 1977 and concluded fishing and maritime rights agreements. However, during the Reagan administration tensions between the two countries increased.
Carter also visited Cuba in 2002, where he held in depth talks with Fidel Castro and gave an uncensored speech to the Cuban public where he said the U.S. should end "an ineffective 43-year-old economic embargo" and called on the Castro regime to hold free elections, improve human rights, and allow greater civil liberties.
Besides his meeting with Castro, Carter also met with AIDS patients, political dissidents and threw out the first pitch at a Cuban baseball game.
He was the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since the country’s revolution in 1959.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.