Carter returns from Cuba without jailed aid worker

Former US president does not succeed in securing Jewish USAID worker Alan Gross' freedom; Gross accused of violating media and visa laws.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
March 31, 2011 10:24
2 minute read.
Alan Gross and his wife Judy in Jerusalem, 2005.

alan gross_311 reuters. (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)

 
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Former US president Jimmy Carter returned from a historic visit to Cuba on Thursday without jailed Jewish-American aid worker Alan Gross.

Carter 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 through.

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“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 arrest.

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 laws.

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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 live.

Several Jewish organizations told The Jerusalem Post that while 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 soil.

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