ATLANTA (CBS4) -Former President Jimmy Carter is expected to make a visit to Cuba next week to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro. During his trip Carter will discuss economic policies and ways to improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Carter and his wife Rosalynn will arrive in Havana on Monday and stay until Wednesday on a trip under the auspices of his Atlanta-based Carter Center organization, spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said. It is not an official U.S. mission.
Carter’s visit comes days after a Cuban court sentenced U.S. contractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state for bringing illegal satellite communications equipment into the country.
Gross, 61, was arrested in December 2009 while working for Bethesda, Maryland-based Development Alternatives, Inc. on a USAID-backed democracy-building project.
The U.S. government and Gross’s family say he was working to improve Internet access for the island’s Jewish community and should be released immediately. Cuba rejects these claims, saying Gross was a “mercenary” working on a program paid for by Washington that aimed to bring down Cuba’s revolutionary system.
U.S. officials say that no rapprochement is possible while Gross remains jailed. Cuba, however, has presented Gross as evidence of U.S. intentions to unleash a “cyberwar” to destabilize the island.
There have been no diplomatic relations between the countries since the 1960s and the United States maintains economic and financial sanctions on the island.
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.
During his administration, Cuba-US relations warmed briefly, with short-lived direct flights between Miami and Havana and the opening of interests sections that provide some contact in lieu of embassies. But that short honeymoon ended with a refugee crisis that saw about 125,000 Cubans flee to the United States from the Mariel port west of Havana.
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