Former President Jimmy Carter will meet Wednesday with Cuba’s top dissidents — from blogger Yoani Sanchez to the Ladies in White and 12 just-freed political prisoners — in an extraordinary recognition of their peaceful activism.
Carter, the most important U.S. political figure to visit Cuba, met Tuesday with Cuban ruler Raúl Castro for what aides said would be a discussion of the ambitious reforms that Castro has proposed to fix an all but bankrupt economy.
But his meetings Wednesday with critics of the communist system will be a powerful and conspicuous appreciation of the dissidents, regularly jailed or condemned by Cuban officials as a tiny group of “mercenaries” financed by the U.S. government.
Carter, who made human rights a hallmark of his 1977-1981 presidency, “is acting with coherence,’’ said human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez. “Other foreign visitors never meet with the opposition to avoid angering the Cuban government. But not him.”
The 86-year-old Carter arranged separate early Wednesday meetings with various groups of dissidents and independent activists at the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel in Old Havana.
One of the sessions will be with popular bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Claudia Cadelo, the leading edge of a generation of young Cubans using the Internet to attack the Castro government and organize independent activities.
Cuban state television has broadcast a string of special programs on Mondays accusing the “independent bloggers’’ and other Internet activists of being part of a discreet subtle Washington plan to subvert the country’s government.
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