alan gross_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
Former US president Jimmy Carter returned from a historic visit to Cuba on
Thursday without jailed Jewish-American aid worker Alan Gross.
held meetings with Raul and Fidel Castro, calling the latter an “old friend,”
and visited religious leaders and members of the opposition. However, the
expectation that Carter would return with Gross – who has been found guilty of
subversion by a local court and been imprisoned for over year – fell
Cuba sentence for Jewish aid worker draws US ire
Conference of Presidents calls for Cuba to free Alan Gross
“The Cuban officials made it very clear to me before I left my
home that the freedom of Alan Gross would not be granted,” the former president
was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
Carter said he met with
Gross at an undisclosed location Wednesday morning and that the 61-year-old
contractor told him he had lost 40 kilograms (88 pounds) since his
It was the second time that Carter had visited the communist
country – and speculation was rife that he may have gone there to secure the
release of Gross on a mission akin to that of former US president Bill Clinton
to North Korea last year, when he returned from Pyongyang with an American
jailed by the regime.
Gross was arrested in Havana over a year ago while
working for USAID, a governmental aid agency, to assist the local Jewish
community in building a communications center. Authorities accused Gross of
delivering satellite phones in violation of the country’s strict media
In addition, he was charged with repeatedly entering the country
with the wrong visa.
Since Gross was arrested, Jewish groups have
struggled to strike a balance between protesting for his release and remaining
on good terms with the Cuban government, where over 1,000 Jews
Several Jewish organizations told The Jerusalem Post
they were working for his release, they feared too strong a condemnation of
Havana might imperil the Jewish community.
Sources also told the Post
that they suspect Cuba may be holding Gross as a bargaining chip in a trade-off
with the US in return for several Cuban spies currently in jail on American