Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jailed U.S. contractor, sour U.S.-Cuba relations

Jailed U.S. contractor, sour U.S.-Cuba relations
Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:21am EDT

(Reuters) - American Alan Gross has been held in Cuba since December on
suspicions of espionage, although he has not been officially charged
with a crime. The U.S. government has said he was not a spy but was in
Cuba setting up Internet systems for Jewish groups under a federally
funded contract promoting political change on the island.

The following are facts about the case, which has stalled progress in
U.S.-Cuba relations:

* Gross, 61, was detained by Cuban authorities at the Havana airport as
he was preparing to fly home on December 3.

* He is said to have been in Cuba installing satellite equipment to
provide Internet access for Cuban Jewish groups.

* He was working as a contractor for Maryland-based company DAI under a
U.S. Agency for International Development program aimed at promoting
democracy in Cuba.

* U.S.-Cuba relations had warmed slightly under President Barack Obama,
but U.S. officials say there will be no major initiatives with its
longtime ideological enemy as long as Gross is held.

* Cuba views the USAID program as part of the United States'
long-standing campaign to subvert the island's communist-led government.

* Cuban officials have said Gross was suspected of espionage and
providing illegal satellite communications equipment to dissidents, but
the case is under investigation.

* Cuba's Law 88 says that anyone who "participates in the distribution
of financial, material or other resources that come from the United
States government ... faces a sanction of three to eight years in prison."

* Gross is being held in a Havana military hospital, but his wife, Judy
Gross, visited him in Cuba in late July.

* She has written a letter to President Raul Castro, expressing remorse
for her husband's work and asking for his release due to their
daughter's illness.

* New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson came to Cuba in late August to
meet with Cuban officials about Gross, but left empty-handed.

* A U.S. State Department spokesman said on September 2 there was no
truth to reports the United States may swap five jailed Cuban agents for

* Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State Arturo Valenzuela discussed the Gross case on September 24 on the
sidelines of U.N. General Assembly in New York.

* Judy Gross said the U.S. government had done little to help her husband.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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