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Former US President Carter Visits Cuba

Followed by Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, former President Jimmy Carter (r) arrives to the Jose Marti airport in Havana, March 28, 2011
Followed by Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, former President Jimmy Carter (r) arrives to the Jose Marti airport in Havana, March 28, 2011

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is on a three-day unofficial visit to Cuba, where there are some expectations he may discuss the case of a jailed American contractor.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez welcomed the 86-year-old Mr. Carter and his wife Rosalynn when they arrived Monday at Havana's airport.

The head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, Jonathan Farrar, also was there to greet the former president.

Carter's visit is a private trip under the auspices of his nonprofit organization, the Carter Center.  The Cuban government invited him to learn about the communist nation's new economic policies, and he is scheduled to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro before leaving Wednesday.

The former U.S. president could also take up the case of Alan Gross, the American contractor recently sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison.

Cuban authorities accused Gross of "subversive" work by giving dissident groups satellite communications equipment for Internet access.  Gross said he was trying to improve Internet service to members of Cuba's small Jewish community.  The United States has repeatedly called for his release.

In addition, the former president will meet with Havana's Jewish leaders and Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who last year helped win the release of most of the island's political prisoners.

The Nobel Peace laureate has played a mediating role in other international problems, including last August when he went to North Korea to secure the release of an American imprisoned there.

Mr. Carter visited Cuba in 2002 when he met with then-President Fidel Castro.  On that visit, the former U.S. president criticized both Washington's trade embargo against the island nation and Havana's refusal to allow full political freedoms.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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