by Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 15 — Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson returned to the US on Wednesday after leaving Cuba empty handed in his attempt to secure the release of Alan Gross, 62, who is serving a 15-year sentence for serious crimes against the Cuban state.
Richardson had said he had been invited to Cuba to discuss the Gross case but he wasn’t allowed to even see the US citizen.
However Cuban Communist Party official Josefina Vidal told AP that Richardson had never been invited to come to Cuba for such purposes.
Vidal accused Richardson of “blackmail” and “slander” in an interview with AP: “His request to see the prisoner … became impossible due to his slanderous statements to the press in which he described Gross as a ‘hostage’ of the Cuban government,” Vidal said. Richardson made the comment last Thursday after he said his demand to see Gross was rebuffed.
“Even before he had met with a single Cuban official the media fallout and the speculation had begun,” she said. Vidal insisted to AP that no Cuban official ever led Richardson to believe he would leave the island with Gross.
“The release of the North American prisoner Alan Gross was never on the table,” she said, adding that Cuba was caught by surprise when word of Richardson’s visit was leaked amid news reports that he was coming to take Gross home.”
The weeklong visit by Richardson to Havana was not covered by the Cuban press.