Senators Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, and Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, were optimistic on Gross’s release after meeting with him for two hours in the Military Prison Hospital where he is serving a sentence of 15 years.
This is a new effort by high level US politicians to resolve the main obstacle to the progress of bilateral relations, something that does not seem in sight after a complex political landscape in Washington.
“Most importantly from our visit to Gross is the message that he wants to go home,” Udall said during an impromptu news conference with reporters in Havana.
An encouraging step
No details of the conversation were revealed, but at least it is an encouraging step that Gross had agreed to meet with them. The Development Alternatives Inc. employee had said goodbye to his family this summer and since then was reluctant to receive any visitors in prison.
On the eve of his 65th birthday, on May 2, Gross said that this would be his last year in prison and that he would return to the United States alive or dead.
Asked about the possibility that Gross be released, Flake said, “I feel we are closer to it, because Alan Gross has said himself that this is going to end one way or another.”
The senator added that after five years of arrest, “any benefit that the Cuban government may have figured, must have evaporated by now.”
The senators arrived in Cuba on Sunday with the plan to request the release of Gross with the Cuban authorities. No details on the dialogue with government partners, including Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez were disclosed.
However, there is no indication, that the resolution of the case will be imminent.
Five Years of Agony
The visit from the US lawmakers occurs within one month of the fifth anniversary of the arrest of Gross on Dec. 3, 2009. One option is that the Cuban authorities reopen access to the legal case for humanitarian reasons, once a third of his sentence is served.
Neither Alan’s lawyer, Scott Gilbert, nor spokespersons from the Gross family responded Tuesday to CaféFuerte questions about the senators visit to Havana.
But Flake and Udall’s trip coincides with the confirmation of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), funder of the program Gross worked for, is reviewing the internal rules on covert missions in countries at risk, as is the case in Cuba.