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Carter tells Cubans of freedoms in U.S.

COJIMAR, Cuba (CNN) -- During the first full day of a planned five-day visit to communist Cuba, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wasted little time outlining differences between the two countries.

At a school for social workers Monday afternoon, the first U.S. president to visit the country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928 said that although the two countries share a passion for baseball and good music, "there are some differences, as you know, in emphasis on certain elements of human rights.

"In the United States, we feel that it is very important to have absolute freedom of expression and freedom of assembly," said Carter, dressed in a white shirt typical of Cuban dress.

"We take great pride in our freedom to criticize our own government and to change our government when we don't like it by voting in elections that are contested.

"Our people are completely free to form our own businesses, to hire other people to work and make a profit.

"On the other hand, the Cuban government is dedicated to providing superb education, health care and equal opportunities to all the people.

"So, we have many things in common and a few things on which we differ."

Carter said he was "extremely impressed at the level of education in Cuba," noting that the country enjoys nearly universal literacy and the average Cuban has attended nine years of schooling. "It would be very difficult to find any other countries in the world that could beat this record," he said.

To each of his Cuban audiences, Carter has been promoting his planned Tuesday evening address, which is to be carried live on Cuban radio and television.

He said his talk would be brief so that he can attend a baseball game, "which may be the high point of my visit, since my wife and I are very strong fans of the Atlanta Braves."

Carter expressed gratitude for the welcome he has received. "I have been received with open arms and many expressions of friendship."

In describing his work since he left office in 1980, Carter noted that he has "helped people have open, free elections" more than 30 times in recent years.




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