Cuba says US lying about jailed American's health
By By Paul Haven on December 06, 2012
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba accused the United States of lying about the health
and conditions of confinement of a jailed American government
subcontractor, and pushed back Wednesday against an apparent U.N. ruling
that his 15-year sentence is arbitrary and a violation of his human rights.
Josefina Vidal, the top Cuba diplomat for North American affairs, also
said it was unrealistic to expect Cuba to free Maryland resident Alan
Gross "unilaterally" — a clear demand for U.S. concessions in the case
of five Cuban intelligence agents sentenced in Florida to long prison terms.
The U.S. government "is directly responsible for the situation that led
to the detention and judgment and trial of Mr. Alan Gross so we have to
sit down together, to look together for a solution to this case," she said.
Vidal said Cuba had received word from the U.N. Working Group on
Arbitrary Detention on Tuesday that it ruled in Gross' favor, though the
decision had not yet been made public.
While the ruling is a public relations hit to Cuba, the body has no
enforcement powers. Vidal said the same agency determined in 2005 that
the U.S. jailing of the five Cuban agents was arbitrary.
Vidal said Cuba has repeatedly made its terms known to U.S. officials
and has not gotten a response. Diplomats and the White House have flatly
ruled out a prisoner swap, at least in public comments.
Gross told a U.S. rabbi who visited him last week at a military hospital
where he is being held that he does not want to be linked to the
intelligence agents' cases since he does not believe he committed
espionage. But he added that he does desire better U.S.-Cuba ties and
freedom for all "political prisoners."
Gross' champions say Cuba's insistence on an exchange amounts to holding
the 63-year-old hostage. The case has chilled already frosty relations
between the two nations.
Gross was setting up wireless Internet connections for Cuba's Jewish
community as a subcontractor for USAID, the US government agency in
charge of foreign economic development, when he was arrested in December
2009. The project he was working on was part of a $40 million-a-year
program to promote democracy.
U.S. officials have portrayed the work as purely humanitarian. But Gross
was violating Cuban law by doing work for USAID in the country, since
under Cuban law such activities must be authorized. Gross' wife
acknowledged in a recent lawsuit against the U.S. government and her
husband's employer that he knew the work he was doing was risky, and
other documents show he took steps to conceal his activities.
Gross, who was overweight before his arrest, has lost 105 pounds in
custody and suffers from a number of ailments. Earlier this year, he
developed a mass behind his right shoulder. His lawyers have called on
Cuba to allow an independent doctor of his choosing to examine him.
Vidal reiterated that a team of Cuban doctors performed a biopsy and
found no evidence the growth was cancerous. She hinted that Cuba would
release more tests if the accusations by U.S. political and diplomatic
"The U.S. government is lying once again to the public, saying that Mr.
Gross has cancer and does not receive adequate medical care," she said.
"These lies have not stopped, even after the results of the biopsy
conducted on the lesion on his back were delivered to his family and
Gross's lawyer has complained about Cuba's decision to disclose medical
tests that are normally confidential.
A resolution demanding Gross' release was introduced in the U.S. Senate
this week and was expected to pass as early as Wednesday.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated
Washington's demand that Cuba release Gross, or at least allow him to
travel to the United States to visit his elderly mother, who was
diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
Vidal repeated Cuba's position that such a trip was not in the offing.
Recently, Gross' wife Judy filed a $60 million lawsuit against the U.S.
government and the company that hired him, alleging they did not train
him properly or make him aware of the risks he was running in Cuba.
However, Vidal said Gross knew perfectly well that his activities were
illegal, and that he was being paid handsomely for the risk he was taking.
"Mr. Gross violated Cuban law by committing acts that constitute serious
crimes which are severely punishable in most countries, including the
U.S.," she said.
Paul Haven on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/paulhaven