From Shasta Darlington, CNN
March 30, 2011 -- Updated 0741 GMT (1541 HKT)
Former President Jimmy Carter is on the third day of his visit to Cuba
The trip is officially to strengthen bilateral ties
Carter will meet with prominent blogger Yoani Sanchez on Wednesday
He says he has spoken to officials about Alan Gross, who was recently
sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- On the third day of his visit to Cuba, former U.S.
President Jimmy Carter is expected to meet with prominent blogger Yoani
Sanchez announced the meeting via Twitter on Tuesday morning: "They just
called my house. I will meet with Jimmy Carter tomorrow morning. More
Sanchez told CNN that a representative of the Carter Center called to
invite her to a meeting at 7 a.m. on Wednesday but asked that she not
reveal the location.
"It¹s a good gesture," Sanchez said. "And a sign of respect for the
plurality of voices, rather than resigning himself to the government's
During his 2002 trip to Cuba, Carter also met with dissidents and
criticized the country's lack of democracy in a speech carried live on
Carter's meeting with Sanchez is likely to ruffle feathers. She has been
slammed in state media for alleged links to Washington and accused of
trying to rally dissidents against the government via the internet.
On Tuesday, Carter squashed speculation that he can secure the release
of American contractor Alan Gross during his trip.
"We have spoken to some officials about Mr. Gross. But I am not here to
take him out of the country," he told journalists, when asked about the
Expectations were high that Carter would try to negotiate the release of
Gross, who was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison. U.S. Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton talked to Carter before his departure to
encourage him to raise the issue.
Cuba accuses Gross, a USAID subcontractor, of working a "subversive"
project to illegally connect people to the internet with the goal of
destabilizing the government.
Washington maintains Gross was helping the island's small Jewish
On Monday afternoon, Carter met with Jewish leaders and the archbishop
of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega. He visited the Patronato Jewish center
and Temple Beth Shalom.
Analysts say that even if Carter doesn't fly home with Gross, he could
pave the way for Gross to be released early on "humanitarian grounds."
Gross's family has called for such a release, as his mother and his
daughter are battling cancer.