By Circles Robinson, Photos: Jorge Luis Baños
HAVANA TIMES, March 28 — Former US President James Carter had a busy first day in Cuba on Monday. On his second visit to the island, Carter visited leaders of the Jewish community and some of their facilities. He also met with Catholic Church leader Cardenal Jaime Ortega.
Carter and his wife Rosaylnn are scheduled to be in Cuba through Wednesday and the ex-president (1977-1981) will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro.
A visit with his host of 2002, Fidel Castro, is not on the official program, but would be no surprise.
Carter is the only US president either in or out of office to visit Cuba. He heads the non-profit Carter Center, founded in 1982, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
The former president is in Havana to learn first-hand about the new economic policies being implemented in Cuba. Experts on US-Cuba relations like Esteban Morales believe learning about the case of Alan Gross is also on his agenda.
Gross, who works for Development Alternatives Inc, was sentenced recently to 15 years in prison by a Havana court for “Actions Against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State,” considered a very serious crime.
The Maryland resident was caught distributing illegal telecommunications equipment which the US State Dept. claimed was just humanitarian aid. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made the Gross case her top issue in US-Cuba relations, which have not improved substantially as some expected they would under President Obama.