US Congress Delegation Visits Alan Gross in Cuba

HAVANA TIMES — Four US Congresspersons were in Havana on Monday to visit with imprisoned Maryland resident Alan Gross and meet with Cuban officials, with the aim of promoting negotiations to free the prisoner now in his fifth year of a fifteen year sentence, reported dpa news.

“It is of the interest to both our countries to start negotiations, not just talks,” said California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, heading the parliamentary group of four Democratic Party representatives. She spoke at a brief press conference in Havana.

“It is time for both countries to make a serious commitment to enter into negotiations without preconditions,” said Lee.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the integrity of the State. Cuban authorities caught Gross carrying sophisticated telecommunications equipment prohibited on the island. He was working for a well-funded, secret USAID program designed to topple the Cuban government.

The Gross case is one of the more thorny issues that hamper relations between Washington and Havana, which have not had diplomatic ties for more than half a century.

Besides Rep. Lee, the congressional delegation includes Gregory Meeks (NY), Sam Farr (CA), and Emanuel Clever (Missouri). They met with Gross for an hour and half, according to sources of the delegation.

The group then met for lunch with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, according to reports.

Farr said the aim of the visit is to “use our voice to break the ice” in relations between the two countries.

Raul Castro’s government has repeatedly offered negotiations to the White House for an exchange for intelligence agents from the group known as the Cuban Five, imprisoned in the US since 1998 for espionage.

Three of them are still in prison (two served out their terms in  2011 and 2013), one sentenced to double life. The Obama administration has thus far refused to link the two cases.

Gross, 65, went on a hunger strike in early April for several days demanding that Washington and Havana reach an agreement to free him. He said shortly after through his lawyers that he is determined to return to his country within the next year either “dead or alive.”

Gross, who worked for Development Alternatives Inc., contracted by USAID, said his mission in Cuba was only to provide Internet access to the Jewish community on the island. At one point he said he was unaware of the bigger picture of the USAID program.

USAID was in recent weeks in the center of criticism in the United States and Cuba after Associated Press revealed that for years it had financed a secret “Cuban Twitter” program on the island to encourage protests against the regime.

7 thoughts on “US Congress Delegation Visits Alan Gross in Cuba

  • Any changes will happen only if it makes political sense. Pretty sad isn’t it?

  • I would hope Obama has enough trouble on his plate right now with Obamacare, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Benghazi, Egypt, Israel-Palestine & Venezuela that he has no interest in opening a can of worms, or gusanos, over Gross.

    If Raul really wanted to make a favourable impression the US, he should free Gross now, without conditions or quid pro quo. Only a gesture like that would move Washington to respond.

    On the other hand, he can hold out for ever, using gullible fools like these leftist congress critters, or pliable US media, or public relations front groups like #CubaNow to call for the Release of the Cuban 5 and the lifting of the embargo. That approach will go nowhere.

  • The facts are that Barbara Lee went to Cuba and spoke with the families of the “Cuban 5”!! She says the the US should have talks with the Castro “government” without “pre-conditions”! But not only have the Castro brothers already set the conditions by mentioning a trade of Alan Gross for the three remaining member of The Cuban 5 Spies, but she has also set the same “pre-condition”

    2009 April 7, 20:05 (Tuesday)

    SUMMARY: A CODEL led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) visited Cuba April
    3 – 7. The CODEL met with GOC officials including former President Fidel Castro,
    President Raul Castro, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, National Assembly
    President Ricardo Alarcon, and with the wives of the 5 Cuban agents currently
    incarcerated in the U.S.

  • To be accurate, Lee has never publicly said this is her plan. However, as a Castro sympathizer, I assume that when she says “no preconditions” that this means the ‘sole’ Castro plan to trade Gross for the remaining Cuban spies should be considered. I believe the Obama administration has been very clear that this trade is not an option. I KNOW that Lee does not have the respect or influence in the White House to cause the administration to reverse itself. This trade is a horrible idea that serves the Castro propaganda machine and does little for the cause of democracy. Tragically, Mr. Gross is caught in the middle. Americans can only hope that the Castros release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds before his health fails and the situation worsens.

  • “But as far as influencing Obama to change his mind about trading the
    remaining three Cuban spies for Mr. Gross, it will never happen. Period.”

    And you know this….how?

  • I know both Reps. Lee and Farr. Personally, both are very nice people. Lee has visited Cuba many times that I am aware of. She is a far left democrat that couldn’t get a Mother’s Day resolution passed in the current House given her reputation. I suspect Farr is not much different. Likewise, her district in Oakland is a safe Democratic district but it is also a poor district. She can’t raise any money for anybody so again no clout. Her trip to Cuba is what we call a junket. She hopefully encouraged Mr. Gross to stay optimistic and hopeful. If she accomplished that then her visit was a success. But as far as influencing Obama to change his mind about trading the remaining three Cuban spies for Mr. Gross, it will never happen. Period.

  • Barbara Lee wants to push Obama to trade Alan Gross for the last three Cuban 5 spies which were actually a group of 14 agents not just 5! The reason for the catchy name “Cuban 5” is to detract from this fact!

    In 1977, Barbara Lee and Ron Dellums were part of a delegation to Cuba, which met with Fidel Castro to discuss health problems.
    Lee was inspired to a political career while a campaign worker for Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign. Chisholm was the first black woman to enter Congress. Chisholm had a long history of Communist Party USA front affiliation, but entered Congress through the Democratic Party in New York’s 11th district.[2]

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