Friday, December 3, 2010

US says Cuba detention of contractor hurts ties

Posted on Friday, 12.03.10
US says Cuba detention of contractor hurts ties
Associated Press

HAVANA -- The yearlong detention of an American subcontractor by Cuba is
a "major impediment" to improved ties, the U.S. State Department said
Friday, some of the strongest language yet from Washington in a case
that has short-circuited nascent hopes for rapprochement between the
Cold War enemies.

The statement from department spokesman P.J. Crowley comes on the
one-year anniversary of the arrest of Alan Gross, whom Cuban President
Raul Castro has accused of spying. Gross has not been charged with any
crime, however.

"It is long overdue for Cuban authorities to release Mr. Gross," the
statement read. "He has languished in a Cuban jail for a full year and
the Cuban Government has yet to explain reasons for his detention or
file charges. His arrest and continued detention without charge violate
international standards of due process and judicial procedure."

"We have made it very clear to the Cuban Government that the continued
detention of Alan Gross is a major impediment to advancing the dialogue
between our two countries," the State Deparmtent said.

It vowed to use "every available channel to urge the Cuban Government to
put an end to Mr. Gross' long and unjustifiable ordeal."

Cuban officials have said previously the case is working its way through
the legal system and there is nothing unusual about the period he has
spent in jail.

Gross, a native of Potomac, Maryland, was working for a firm contracted
by USAID when he was arrested Dec. 3, 2009. His family denies he was
spying, saying he brought communications equipment for use by the local
Jewish community, not dissidents.

"Mr. Gross is an international development worker who traveled to Cuba
to help connect members of the Jewish community in Havana with other
Jewish communities throughout the world," Crowley said.

The leaders of the two largest groups for Cuba's 1,500-strong Jewish
community said in Havana this week that they never met Gross and were
not working with him.

Havana says USAID's programs to promote democratic change in Cuba are
meant to subvert the government by bankrolling opposition activity.

Cuba and the United States have been at odds since shortly after Fidel
Castro's 1959 revolution, and the U.S. has maintained an economic
embargo on the island for 48 years.

The Gross case has complicated hopes for a thaw that rose after the
election of President Barack Obama, whose administration says it has
worked to relieve tensions in a number of ways, including easing limits
on Cuban-Americans who want to travel or send money to the island that
were imposed by George W. Bush.

Senior officials from both countries have also met to discuss resuming
direct mail service and tackle immigration issues, as well as relief
efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Associated Press writer Paul Haven in Havana contributed to this report.

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