In rare visit with Castro, Jimmy Carter attempts to restart US-Cuba relations
During his three-day trip to Cuba, former President Jimmy Carter also met with detained American Alan Gross, who was sentenced this month to 15 years prison for espionage.
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In 2009, President Obama lifted some restrictions on travel and the sending of remittances to Cuba, in what his press secretary called measures intended “to reach out to the Cuban people.”Skip to next paragraph
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Gross’s arrest and subsequent conviction “halted” any further negotiations, Professor Azel says. “What Cuba wants and needs is US tourists and their money,” he says. “And the only thing Castro has to offer the US in exchange at this point is the release of Gross.”
Still, Carter’s visit could open the door for negotiations that lead to Gross’ release. The Cuban state-controlled media reported Wednesday that President Raúl Castro remained open to discussing any topic with the US government.
Carter meets bloggers, rights advocates
Raúl, who assumed the presidency from his ailing older brother in 2008, invited Castro to the island to learn about some of the country’s new economic policies and to discuss ways to improve relations between the two countries.
Carter met with Havana’s Catholic archbishop, dissident bloggers, human rights advocates, members of leading opposition group Ladies in White, and some of the recently released Group of 75 political prisoners, who were jailed in 2003 during the “Black Spring” crackdown.
Carter told them he “wanted to express his solidarity and his recognition of the movement for civil rights and also the emerging civil society,” said human rights leader Elizardo Sanchez, according to the Associated Press.
It was his second visit to the island and he remains the only US president, current or former, to visit Cuba since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. “I hope we can contribute to better relations between the two countries,” Carter said today during a press conference, calling for the US to end its trade embargo and for Cuba to allow more freedoms to its people.
For Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, Carter’s visit provided a bit of hope for the future.
Ms. Sanchez – who last year won a prestigious journalism award from Columbia University but was barred by the Cuban government from attending the awards ceremony – met with Carter this morning.
She said she could not discuss the content of the meeting, but she later tweeted, “Life goes on; Today is not the end of anything but I wish it was the beginning.”