Photo: Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba
Former President Jimmy Carter is in Cuba on a three-day mission to help ease tensions with Havana, and hopefully enable the release of a U.S. government contractor.
Though officials claim Carter was asked by Washington to go intercede in Cuba, the Carter Centre called the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s trip a “private, nongovernmental mission.”
American contractor Alan Gross is currently serving a 15-year jail term after being convicted of “acts against the independence or territorial integrity” of Cuba for providing illegal internet access to Cuban dissidents. The sentence was handed down by a Cuban court earlier this month after only a brief trial.
Carter, 86, is the most important political U.S. figure to have visited Cuba since the economic embargo was put in place nearly 50 years ago. He also visited the island nation in 2002.
Former President Carter and his wife Rosalynn were met at the airport by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez just before 3 p.m. GMT on Tuesday.
An anonymous Western diplomat reportedly said Carter “would not have come to Havana if he didn’t have a hope of obtaining results,” but added that Havana “will never hand over a prisoner to American officials,” but may be inclined to release Gross on humanitarian grounds, allowing him to leave with the former president.
Carter also met with archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has played a major role in the release of dozens of imprisoned Cuban dissidents in the last few months.
The Havana Times has also reported that Carter will meet with President Raul Castro while in the country.