President Carter to meet with Yoani Sanchez
In a move that’s sure to give the Castro brothers more heartburn about Melville House author Yoani Sanchez (blogger and author of the forthcoming Havana Real), it was reported yesterday that former President Jimmy Carter plans to meet today with Sanchez and other prominent Cuban dissidents.
This CNN report by Shasta Darlington reports that Sanchez was contacted by Carter early this week about a possible meeting on Wednesday. In a tweet, Sanchez said “They just called my house. I will meet with Jimmy Carter tomorrow morning. More later!”
“It’s a good gesture,” Sanchez told CNN. “And a sign of respect for the plurality of voices, rather than resigning himself to the government’s message.”
In fact, it may be a bit more pointed than a simple sign of respect for Cuba’s dissidents. As Juan O. Tomaya noted in his report for the Miami Herald, Carter’s ”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.”
The timing of President Carter’s visit to Cuba suggested he had gone there in order to negotiate a release for Alan Gross, the US contractor recently jailed on espionage charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison. “We have spoken to some officials about Mr. Gross,” Carter told journalists after his meeting with Raul Castro and others. “But I am not here to take him out of the country.”
While it may be true that Carter never expected Gross would be boarding a plane to leave with him later this week, it’s hard to believe that Gross’s case was not the primary motivation for the visit. As Darlington notes in her report, Carter’s visit may help set the stage for the Cuban government to release Gross later on ”humanitarian grounds.”
Still, Cuba’s dissidents are taking heart from the recognition by President Carter. The Herald quotes a tweet from Claudia Cadelo, blogger at the Eighth Circle that illustrates this point: ”Full of emotion over the meeting tomorrow. It is a highly important recognition for our civil society.”