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Democratic senator calls out Jimmy Carter for trip to Cuba

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez is criticizing former President Jimmy Carter's trip to Cuba, saying it sends the "wrong message, wrong time, wrong place."

The Democratic senator said he's sent a letter to Carter -- now in Cuba -- "to express his concerns with the visit and the message the meeting sends to the Cuban regime about the goals of US policy, which are to support civil society and promote democracy in Cuba."

In the letter Menendez says the visit "suggests that the improvement of relations between the United States and Cuba is contingent upon some action by the United States.

"That’s the wrong message, at the wrong time, and in the wrong place," he wrote. Full letter after the jump.

March 29, 2011

The Honorable Jimmy Carter/The Carter Center/One Copenhill/453 Freedom Parkway/Atlanta, GA 30307


Dear President Carter:

I am writing to express my grave concern about your visit to Cuba this week to discuss improving U.S.-Cuba relations.

Your visit suggests that the improvement of relations between the United States and Cuba is contingent upon some action by the United States, rather than acknowledging that it is Cuba’s intolerant and tyrannical actions that continue to define the future of U.S.-Cuba relations.

While you are visiting with President Castro and other Cuban officials to learn about new economic policies and the upcoming party Congress, the regime’s thugs are in the streets harassing and arresting scores of political dissidents who dared to hope that you would hear their pleas and argue on their behalf for the adoption of political reforms. The fate of American Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who sought to assist the island’s Jewish community, also hangs in the balance while you meet with the political elite that are directing the crackdown on Cuba’s peaceful civil society activists.

On Sunday, the regime detained activists Adriano Castañeda Meneses, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez and on Monday, Liranza Romero, president of the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement and Boris Rodríguez Jiménez were arrested when they attempted to stand in front of the Capitol with signs reading "Freedom without Forced Exile for Cuba's Political Prisoners" and "The Streets belong to the Cuban People."

I urge you to address with President Castro the aspirations of Cuba’s civil society to live in a democratic state whose laws are derived and implemented by their democratically elected representatives and are based on the core principles of respect for human and civil rights, including the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

As we witness unprecedented movements for democratic change in the Middle East, I appeal to you to recognize that same heartfelt desire amongst the Cuban people and to urge the regime to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.