Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

With no notice, former President Jimmy Carter will be in Cuba on Monday. The AFP is reporting that US diplomats in Havana expressed hope that he will press the Cuban government to release Alan Gross.

Carter will arrive in Havana Monday for a private three-day visit at the invitation of the Cuban government to discuss ways to improve US-Cuban relations, the non-profit Carter Center said Friday.

The Carter Center announcement made no mention of the Gross case, but a spokeswoman for the US diplomatic mission in Havana made clear Friday the United States would welcome his help.

“We’re hoping that he will talk with the Cuban government to ask for a humanitarian release and if the Cuban government could please consider it, hopefully immediately,” Molly Koscina, spokeswoman for the US diplomatic mission in Havana, told AFP.

Carter is scheduled to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro and other Cuban officials. His wife Rosalyn is traveling with him.

The Carter Center said he wanted to learn about Cuba’s new economic policies, which call for major layoffs from the public sector and new rules allowing small-scale private enterprise, and an upcoming Party Congress.

“The trip is a follow-up to their May 2002 visit to Cuba. It is being undertaken as a private, nongovernmental mission under the auspices of the not-for-profit Carter Center,” the center said.

When Carter, who was president from 1977-1981, visited Cuba in 2002 he met with then-president Fidel Castro and called for an end to the US embargo on the island.

He also called on the regime to allow UN human rights officials to visit the island, and publicly praised the Varela Project, a pro-democracy petition calling for a referendum on increased freedom of expression and amnesty for political prisoners.

Carter met during that visit with leading Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Elizardo Sanchez.

ENS

So, is President Carter traveling with a special message from President Obama? Will he be able to secure the release of Alan Gross? The timing is right. If Alan Gross is released next week, the world will see that Raul is clearly in charge and he should get some international praise going into the Communist Party Congress in mid April.

Maybe this time it really is different? If Alan Gross is released then Fidel Castro is no longer in charge in Cuba.