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Former US President Jimmy Carter Heads to Cuba


Former President Jimmy Carter during an interview at the Carter Center in Atlanta (2009 file photo)

Former President Jimmy Carter during an interview at the Carter Center in Atlanta (2009 file photo)

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is headed to Cuba on Monday for a private visit.

Mr. Carter's Atlanta-based Carter Center said Friday that the former president and his wife, Rosalynn, will be in Cuba at the invitation of its government. A statement said the couple will meet with President Raul Castro to discuss ways to improve U.S.-Cuba relations. The Carters also are scheduled to meet with other Cuban officials and citizens to learn about new economic policies and an upcoming congress of Cuba's ruling Communist Party.

The Carters will be in Cuba through Wednesday.

The trip is being undertaken under the auspices of the non-profit Carter Center, which says the trip is a follow-up to the Carters' visit to the island in May 2002.

During that earlier trip, Mr. Carter met with then-Cuban President Fidel Castro, gave an uncensored speech calling on Cuba's government to allow a popular vote on democratic reforms, and met with dissidents and human rights activists. Additionally, Mr. Carter called for cooperation and friendship between Cuba and the United States, and asked the U.S. Congress to repeal the long-standing U.S. embargo against the island nation. Mr. Carter served as U.S. president from 1977 until 1981.

In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama eased restrictions on travel to Cuba and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to family in Cuba, but he kept the long-standing embargo in place. He has said it is up to Cuba to take the next step.

The United States and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations. They have interests sections that are technically part of the Swiss embassies in each other's capitals.

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