Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Carter plans trip to Cuba at government’s invite

    Posted on Friday, 03.25.11

    Carter plans trip to Cuba at government's invite
    The Associated Press

    ATLANTA — Former President Jimmy Carter is expected to visit Cuba next
    week to meet with Cuban President Raul to discuss economic
    policies and ways to improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

    The former president and his wife Rosalynn will arrive in 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 to 15 years in for crimes against the state for
    bringing satellite communications equipment into the country.

    Gross, 61, was 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
    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 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 and criticized both Washington's
    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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