Former President Jimmy Carter gave Cuban dissidents “a clear message of recognition and moral support’’ during meetings Wednesday with opposition figures that ranged from young blogger Yoani Sanchez to traditional activist Oscar Elias Biscet.
Carter also met with jailed U.S. government subcontractor Alan P. Gross, but told a news conference that he would not be taking Gross home when he left Cuba and that he favors ending all U.S. sanctions on the island.
The 86-year-old former president and his wife Rosalynn left Havana later Wednesday after a three-day visit in which he also met with Cuban ruler Raúl Castro, his brother Fidel Castro and Catholic church Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
While Carter said he went to Havana to try to improve U.S. relations, his high-profile meetings with many of Cuba’s top dissidents were unlikely to have been welcomed by the Cuban government, which regularly dismisses them as “mercenaries.”
“He wanted to leave a clear message of recognition and moral support for the many people who have been victims of the repression,” human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.
Sanchez said he was in Carter’s first one-hour meeting with bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Claudia Cadelo and Laritza Diversent; Catholic activists Dagoberto Valdes and Oswaldo Paya,; Reinaldo Escobar, a blogger and Yoani Sanchez’ husband; and a female gay rights activist.
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