Cuba jails American contractor, Carter visits


Cuba has sentenced American contractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for work the country believes posed a threat to the government.  This week, Former United States President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba to meet with Gross, as well as with current President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel.

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, claims he was helping members of the Jewish population in Cuba gain internet access.  Cuba has stated that the goal of his work was to “undermine the government,” according to CNN.com.

On Wednesday March 30, Carter visited Gross in prison and asked the Cuban government to grant his freedom.

“I had a chance to meet with Alan Gross, a man I believe to be innocent of any serious threat to the Cuban government or the Cuban people,” Carter said.  “My hope is that he also might soon be given his own freedom.”

During his three-day visit, Carter also met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and discussed the issue of the five Cubans in the U.S. who were put in jail for espionage.  Carter said that he did not intend to try to propose an exchange of prisoners, but he believes that the Cuban prisoners should also be freed.

“I think the holding of the so-called Cuban five is unwarranted,” Carter said.  “I did not come here with the idea of a swap.”

On Tuesday March 29, Carter also met with current Cuban President Raul Castro.  The main topics of the meeting were “current international issues, the situation in Cuba and the United States and relations between the two nations,” according to Granma.  Raul Castro spoke about Cuba’s willingness to communicate with the U.S., but with “with absolute respect for the island’s independence and sovereignty.”

Carter said that he thinks the relations between the two nations can improve with the freeing of each nation’s prisoners and if the U.S. lifts the trade barrier and takes Cuba off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.  Carter added that the Cuban economic reforms are important and he hoped political change will come as well, giving “complete freedom for all Cuban people for speech and for assembly and for travel.”

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