Jesse Jackson Arrives in Cuba on Mission of Reconciliation

U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson walks at the National hotel in Havana

A Reuters article by Marc Frank says that U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson arrived in Cuba, where he is staying (at Havana’s Hotel Nacional); he has various items on his agenda—all in the hope of facilitating improved relations with the United States. His visit to the island is hosted by the Roman Catholic Church. Jackson, who has visited Cuba several times and met with former President Fidel Castro, said “The church is concerned about peace … and Cuba’s relations with the United States and the rest of the Caribbean. I hope we can facilitate that.”

Asked if he would meet with imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross, Jackson said, “I don’t know, but I would like to.” Gross has been jailed in Cuba since December 2009 in a case that has put the brakes on a brief improvement in long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations. In a March 2011 trial, Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison for installing internet networks for Jewish groups under a secretive U.S. program the Cuban government considers subversive. The United States insists Gross was merely helping the local population get connected as part of a democracy-building project. According to the article, in an open letter to Castro in March 2011, Jackson said, “I appeal to His Excellency President Raul Castro to release Mr. Alan P. Gross on humanitarian grounds.”

Jackon was in Colombia earlier this month where he urged Colombia’s FARC rebels to free former U.S. Marine Kevin Scott Sutay, whom they kidnapped in June. At the moment, Cuba is hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and more than 30 of the guerrilla organization’s commanders are in Havana. The article suggests that Jackson may meet with some of them while in Cuba.

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