Jimmy Carter meets Cuba dissidents
Former US president Jimmy Carter has had talks with prominent Cuban
dissidents on the third day of his visit to the communist-run island.
Among them were several activists recently released from prison and the
dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez.
Mr Carter also met the jailed US contractor Alan Gross, but said the
Cuban authorities had made it clear they did not intend to release him.
He had talks with Cuban leader Raul Castro on Tuesday.
He is due to give a news conference shortly.
The Cuban independent human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said Mr
Carter "wanted to express his solidarity and his recognition of the
movement for civil rights and the emerging civil society".
"Hopefully his visit will be useful, even if it is just one step towards
the normalisation of relations between the governments in Havana and
Washington," he added.
Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez - whose website Generation Y has won
international acclaim - said she could not comment on what Mr Carter had
"My words were dedicated to the need for freedom of expression and free
internet access for Cubans," she said.
Mr Carter, 86 - who is on his second trip to Cuba - is the only serving
or former US president to visit Cuba since the revolution in 1959.
His three-day visit at the invitation of the Cuban government was only
announced on Friday.
There had been speculation that he would be seeking the release of the
US contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison
earlier this month for providing satellite communications equipment to
Jewish groups in Havana.
But on Tuesday Mr Carter said he had not come to take Mr Gross back to
the US, but to meet Cuban leaders and citizens and try to improve
relations between Washington and Havana.
His visit comes a week after the Cuban authorities released the last of
the "Group of 75" dissidents arrested in a crackdown on opposition
activists in 2003.
Their release had been a key condition set by the US and EU for any
improvement in relations.
But Washington has also said there can be no easing of tensions until Mr
Gross is also freed.