Monday, August 23, 2010

New Mexico governor in Cuba, may seek release of U.S. contractor

Posted on Monday, 08.23.10
New Mexico governor in Cuba, may seek release of U.S. contractor

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who won the release of three Cuban
political prisoners during a 1996 visit, was in Havana again Monday to
lead a trade mission.

A senior Obama administration official said U.S. officials also expect
Richardson to press Cuba to free Alan Gross, a U.S. government
subcontractor jailed there for almost nine months.

Richardson ``traveled to Havana, Cuba, as part of a mission to
strengthen potential trade and cultural partnerships between New Mexico
and Cuba,'' his office said in a statement issued Sunday.

``During the visit, Gov. Richardson will help market New Mexico
commodities and follow up on inroads made on potential trade
partnerships during a visit to Cuba last year,'' the statement added.

The senior Obama administration official said Richardson was also
expected to seek the release of Gross, a Potomac, Md., subcontractor for
the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

``Gov. Bill Richardson is leading a trade mission for the state of New
Mexico. We refer you to his office for details,'' the official said in
an e-mail to El Nuevo Herald.

``As we and others have done, we expect Gov. Richardson to urge the
Cuban government to immediately release Mr. Gross. He is not carrying a
message from the administration,'' the official added.

Richardson advocates easing U.S. sanctions on Cuba and has made several
trips to the island. He was last there on another trade mission a year
ago, and a 1996 visit led to the release of three Cuban political prisoners.

Gross was arrested Dec. 3 in Havana after delivering satellite
communications equipment to the island's tiny Jewish community. He has
not been officially charged, but Cuban officials have linked him to U.S.
intelligence activities in their public comments on the case.

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