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Ex-President Jimmy Carter meets in Havana with leader of Cuban bloggers and other dissidents




Former President Jimmy Carter, met in Havana Wednesday, March 30, with independent bloggers and other Cuban dissidents during the third and final day of his visit to the island in an effort to help to improve decades of tense relations between the United States and Cuba, the BBC and Reuters report.

Participants in the meeting included the leader of the Cuban blogger movement Yoani Sánchez, and other well-known opponents, such as Elizardo Sánchez, leader of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, and Oswaldo Payá, winner of the European Parliament's 2002 Sakharov Prize and leader of the "Varela Project," which sought political reforms on the island in favor of greater individual liberties.

The esteemed blogger Yoani Sánchez said Carter exposed the need for freedom of expression and free access to Internet for most Cubans, EFE explains. Elizardo Sánchez reported that the former U.S. president had expressed “his solidarity” with the civil rights movement in Cuba, AP says.

Carter also met with the dissident group Ladies in White, whose husbands are political opponents jailed in 2003 during the offensive known as the “Black Spring” in which 75 high-profile dissidents were put behind bars. Some of them, already freed, also participated in the meeting, Radio Martí says.

Even though Raúl Castro has freed most “political prisoners,” among them several journalists, under an agreement announced in July 2010, civil liberties remain restricted amid continuing allegations of new abuses and censorship.

Media opposed to the regime have reported arrests of dissident and officlal journalists in several places on the island. Diario de Cuba confirmed that sports reporter Rolando Ramos of CMKC radio had been arrested with deserter athletes. The same newspaper had mentioned before that Granma newspaper’s correspondent in Santiago de Cuba, José Antonio Torres, was detained, for unknown causes.

The dissident journalists and director of the Primavera Digital portal, Juan González Febles, had been arrested when he was photographing an operation to seize satellite TV antennas Tuesday, but he was released hours later, Radio Martí reports.

The government also launched an offensive against bloggers, including a program to report them and several videos accusing them of being “cybermercenaries” working for the United States.

The day before, at a news conference with Latin American journalists in Washington, the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela, said the release of political prisoners is a “positive step” but added that “obviously it requires much more.” Changes will come from inside Cuba, but those changes will be much more difficult if civil society is isolated,” Valenzuela said, as quoted by EFE.

Watch the following video by Univision (in Spanish) about the meeting.



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