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Havana (AFP) – American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson urged the United States to end its decades-old sanctions regime on Communist Cuba, official media said Sunday.

Jackson made the remarks at Ebenezer Baptist church in Havana’s Mariano neighborhood, the official news agency Prensa Latina reported.

The United States has had a full economic embargo clamped on Havana since 1961. The U.S. sanctions have outlived the Cold War and have not brought down the Communist Cuban government now led by President Raul Castro, 82.

The United States has said that when Cuba has multiparty elections, it will engage with that government. But the current Cuban government rejects any suggestion of a multiparty system.

On his third visit to Cuba, it was not immediately clear if Jackson would meet with Cuban authorities.

But on Saturday he agreed to a request from Colombian guerrillas to help mediate the release of a U.S. military veteran the rebels captured in June.

In a statement published on the website of the daily El Tiempo, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) asked Jackson to help expedite the release of Kevin Scott Sutay, who was captured in the central-eastern Colombian region of Guaviare when he traveled through the area as a tourist.

Jackson inserted himself in the matter two weeks ago during a global forum of black leaders in Colombia, when he called on the guerrillas to free the American.

In Havana, Jackson said he accepted the request. On a visit to the Cuban capital where FARC rebels are negotiating with Colombian government representatives, Jackson said he would mediate in a bid to help Sutay, “his family and our nation.”

Jackson, who will be in Cuba until Monday, said he would head to Colombia next week.

Peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government opened last November in Cuba, the fourth attempt since the 1980s to end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.


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