Havana – Carter Arrives In Cuba Amid Dispute Over Jewish Contractor

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    Former President Jimmy Carter, second from right, and his wife Rosalynn Carter, second from left, are welcomed by Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, right, and an unidentified protocol official upon their arrival to the Jose Marti airport in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 28, 2011. Carter arrived in Cuba to discuss economic policies and ways to improve Washington-Havana relations, which are even more tense than usual over the imprisonment of a U.S. contractor on the island. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Prensa Latina)Havana – Former President Jimmy Carter arrived in Cuba Monday to discuss economic policies and ways to improve Washington-Havana relations, which are even more tense than usual over the imprisonment of a U.S. contractor on the island.

    Carter was scheduled to meet with Jewish leaders — suggesting that his visit will deal at least partly with the case of Alan Gross, who was arrested in December 2009 while working for Bethesda, Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc. on a USAID-backed democracy-building project.

    Gross has said he was trying to improve internet access for Cuba’s small Jewish community. Jewish leaders here, however, have denied working with him. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this month for crimes against the state for bringing illegal telecommunications equipment into the country.

    Carter is expected to meet with President Raul Castro, other government officials and Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega before leaving on Wednesday.

    Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba, Jonathan Farrar, met Carter and his wife Rosalynn as they arrived at the capital’s airport. Carter, who wore a white guayabera shirt, made no comments to the press.

    The state-run newspaper Granma noted the visit on Monday, calling Carter a “distinguished visitor.”

    The trip is under the auspices of the Carter Center, at the invitation of the Cuban government, and is not an official U.S. mission.

    Still, both the State Department and Gross’ family have expressed hope that Carter’s trip may help facilitate the contractor’s release.

    “We have repeatedly urged the government of Cuba to release Mr. Gross and we encourage others who meet with Cuban officials, including President Carter, to also voice their concerns and make this request,” State spokesman Mark Toner said last week.

    “If he is able to help Alan in any way while he is there, we will be extraordinarily grateful,” Gross’s wife Judy E. Gross said in statement over the weekend. “Our family is desperate for Alan to return home, after nearly 16 months in prison. We continue to hope and pray that the Cuban authorities will release him immediately on humanitarian grounds.”
    Former President Jimmy Carter, center, speaks to journalists after meeting Jewish leaders in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 28, 2011. Carter arrived in Cuba to discuss economic policies and ways to improve Washington-Havana relations, which are even more tense than usual over the imprisonment of Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor, on the island. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
    Cuba calls Gross a mercenary working on a program paid for by Washington that aimed to bring down Cuba’s socialist system, and it has presented him as evidence of U.S. intentions to unleash a “cyberwar” to destabilize the island.

    U.S. officials say no rapprochement between the Cold War enemies is possible while Gross remains jailed.

    Carter’s 1977-1981 presidency coincided with the least-chilly period of U.S.-Cuban relations since shortly after Fidel Castro led his rebels to power in 1959.

    During the Carter administration the two nations opened interest sections, which some countries maintain instead of embassies, in their respective capitals.

    Washington and Havana have not had formal diplomatic relations since the 1960s, and the United States maintains economic and financial sanctions on the island.
    Former President Jimmy Carter, second from left, arrives to the Jose Marti airport in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 29, 2011. Carter is in Cuba to discuss economic policies and ways to improve Washington-Havana relations, which are even more tense than usual over the imprisonment of a U.S. contractor on the island. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)
    Carter visited Cuba in May 2002 on a six-day tour during which he met with then-President Fidel Castro and criticized both Washington’s embargo and the lack of political plurality on the island.

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    11 COMMENTS

    1. I would venture to say that few if any readers are fans of Jimmy Carter (myself included). Current and past feelings about him aside, if he can succeed in getting Alan Gross out of prison and off the island we will all be happy. Carter could then announce to the world that he is a friend to the Jewish people and everyone can say thank you and move on to the next world problem.

    2. This guy is such laytzonus, tell him to go back to the neursing home and not try to make head lines. And to his friends in Cuba- he’s a nobody! Don’t try to make a big deal of some old man!

    3. Carter may be a failed President and a naive fool when it comes to terrorism and the dangers of the world, but we should at least give him credit where it is due.

      As a diplomat he has been spectacular. He has helped secure the release of political prisoners around the world, has built houses for the homeless with his own hands and has helped save countless children in 3rd world countries from starvation.

      While I believe Carter will go down as one of our 3 worst Presidents, the fact remains that he has saved lives and continues to do great humanitarian work. For THAT (and only that) he has my gratitude.

    4. PMO. you are far too generous in characterizing Carter as a failed President and naive. Over and over again he has shown himself to be a genuine soneh Yisrael. He has libeled and defamed Israel openly to the world. He was a great friend to Arafat, Yimach Sh’mo, long after it was politically expedient for him. Would you be grateful to Hamas for all the social services they provide?
      This Carter toig ohf kaporos.

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