White House Acknowledges Contacts over Cuba with Uruguay’s President

By Felipe Pagliery  (Progreso Weekly)

Uruguayan President José Mujica when he met with Barack Obama.
Uruguayan President José Mujica when he met with Barack Obama.

HAVANA TIMES – The White House on Friday (June 20) admitted that President Obama asked Uruguayan President José Mujica to deliver to Cuban President Raúl Castro a bid for the release of Alan Gross, an American citizen serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for introducing illegal communication devices.

According to National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell, Obama told Mujica that “Cuba’s continued incarceration of Alan Gross represents a significant impediment to a more constructive bilateral relationship, and securing his immediate release remains a top priority of the United States.”

National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell

That statement is consistent with past White House calls for Gross’ release and, of itself, is not new, but in this instance Obama went further, asking Mujica to pass it on.

“President Obama asked that President Mujica use any opportunity he might have to convey this same message to President Castro,” Ventrell added.

In addition, “President Obama urged President Mujica to use his considerable credibility as a regional leader to encourage political and economic reforms in Cuba, noting that such measures would be well received by the United States and other members of the international community,” the NSC spokesman said.

The Uruguayan weekly Búsqueda on Thursday reported that Mujica had delivered the message to Castro on June 14 during the Group-of-77 summit in Bolivia.

The National Security Council describes itself as “the President’s principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials.” Its function is “to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies.”

National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell
National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell

The Cuban government has repeatedly said that it is willing to discuss Alan Gross’ release with the U.S. government but that such a discussion must take into account the release of the three members of the Cuban intelligence team known as The Five who are still in U.S. prisons.

If a straight prisoner exchange cannot be arranged, perhaps a simultaneous release of all four “for humanitarian reasons” would solve the problem, some observers have suggested.

This week, the head of the United States Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, issued a statement expressing condolences to the Gross family on the death of Alan’s mother, Evelyn, on Wednesday.

In it, Vidal cited “the situation of Gerardo [Hernández] and his comrades, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, who were also sentenced to long terms, other aspects of a profound humanitarian nature concur, which cannot be overlooked. For almost 16 years, they have been separated from their relatives, some of them of advanced age, who cling to the hope that they will have them back, and no longer can see their children grow.

“This lamentable situation could have been avoided,” Vidal wrote. “We reiterate Cuba’s firm disposition to seek, together with the United States, a solution to the cases of Gross and Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, that may be acceptable to both parties and takes into consideration the humanitarian concerns of both governments and their respective families.”


31 thoughts on “White House Acknowledges Contacts over Cuba with Uruguay’s President

  • June 29, 2014 at 7:43 am
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    You have got it backwards. It is the Castros who (you meant to say “CAN’T”) are powerless to change things. Cubans continue to leave Cuba by the tens of thousands. Cuban productivity remains among the lowest in the world. Government corruption continues to increase despite efforts to the contrary. Physical infrastructure continues to crumble and buildings continue to collapse. Even beer, condoms and toilet paper are getting harder to find. When Maduro can no longer send 100,000 barrels of oil per day to Cuba, it promises to get worse not better. US foreign policy has its successes and failures. So what? We get an “A” for effort.

  • June 28, 2014 at 5:31 pm
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    And when you finish you finish you idelogical driven dissertation I would add.
    BUT YOU CAN DO SHI*T ABOUT.
    Even if you could with that idelogical mind set, I would point to such a recent success as Afghanistan, Iraq, and near to home El Salvador, Honduras etc.
    So lets get real and deal with the relatively simple tasck in hand

  • June 27, 2014 at 7:45 am
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    I agree that the sentences for the five Cuban spies seem extreme despite the certainty of their guilt. I would welcome the “town hall” setting. I would open with how the Castros restrict free speech, and then go on to how they control housing, transportation and employment in Cuba. I would move on to sharing snippets of Fidel’s speeches where he attacks democracy and open elections and close with the treatment of the Ladies in White. The “common sense and empathy” that you justly admire would be mine for the taking.

  • June 27, 2014 at 7:38 am
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    I like your math.
    Castros leave town = 11 million happy Cubans

  • June 27, 2014 at 5:31 am
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    Finally you are implying
    that I have an ideological bias for the Cuban spies.

    I tell you what, I think the sentences were vindictive, How
    come one minute the prosecution are offering a deal, that they could all walk free and the second they are on 30 plus? I’m not expert in American justice system, but I would think that such a deal wouldn’t be offer to a dangerous terrorist or rapist. And throwing the Brother to the rescue on their charges is as spurious as blaming the zuzuneo network on Mr. Gross. They are(both sides)
    pawns trapped in a quarrel bigger than they are. A quarrel, by the way, increasingly futile and insubstantial. That’s why, cheer-leading one side without nuances and
    context sick some human string whiting me.

    I would like to believe that if you and I present this
    debate on front of any assembly of free thinking
    Un- bias fellows in any town hall in the world, my pledge would be favorably accepted. Because common
    sense and empathy are the very few things left in this world that can hold humanity off.

  • June 27, 2014 at 4:21 am
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    I leave those epical ideological /geostrategic battles for
    armchair warriors such as yourself.

    I see humanity, simple!

    Unilateral release of Mr Gross = 1 happy family

    Exchange = 4 happy families (plural)

    Factor that for the number of year of each sentence, (being
    one, 2 life times)

    You do the math!

  • June 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm
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    Griffin, the “conflict” is between the Taliban/Al Qaeda and the rest of the ‘infidel’ world. The US has unfortunately been thrust in the lead role as the planet’s beat cop. These extremists are as likely to blow up a train station in Toronto as they are in Chicago. Not only Obama, but the majority of Americans are war-weary and tired of footing the bill to keep the world safe, blah, blah, blah. Finally, you are correct that the conflict overall is far from over, but combat operations in Afghanistan are coming to an end in December. In as much as Bergdahl was assigned to the Afghanistan war, getting him back was up against a hard deadline in December.

  • June 25, 2014 at 9:42 pm
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    If you had a real concern for Mr. Gross’ release, you would not persist in urging Obama to succumb to the Castros hostage-taking scheme and instead seek the easier path to bringing him home…unilateral release. On the contrary you feign concern for Gross while all the while, what you really want to do is to carry the Castros’ water for them. What you seek is the release of the remaining Cuban spies. You could not care less about US contractor Alan Gross.

  • June 25, 2014 at 12:20 pm
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    Exactly what I expect of an armchair warrior. We can wait a while, of course you are not the one in f***ing jail.

  • June 25, 2014 at 9:53 am
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    The conflict between the US & the Taliban & Al Qaeda is not at an end, no matter how much Obama wishes that headache would go away.

  • June 25, 2014 at 9:51 am
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    The trade of Bowe Bergdahl for the release of five terrorists was a very bad deal indeed. It should not be held up as an example for the US to follow in regards to Gross.

  • June 25, 2014 at 6:25 am
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    Your comments remain unfounded then. My views are neither twisted or bent unless you can prove otherwise. Patriotism appears arrogant when you disagree with the patriot. Indeed, it is because what Americans believe is special, that we have become the only superpower. You are correct that this power must be moderated. Obama has gone to great lengths to avoid wars in Syria, Libya, Ukraine and elsewhere as an example of that moderation. My views of the Castros are well-grounded in their past history. They are simply not to be trusted.

  • June 25, 2014 at 6:18 am
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    Again, bad analogy. The US military has long held a proud tradition of never leading a fellow soldier behind. On top of that is the tradition of trading POWs at the end of the conflict. Gross is not military nor is he a POW. He is a hostage. I am not sure I follow the second part of your comment but what is clear that the Cuban actors are from the b/w silent movie era. The US only needs to wait a little while longer and there will be a whole new set of actors to deal with and a more modern script.

  • June 25, 2014 at 3:05 am
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    Very well, the Russian Spy analogy didn’t do it for you. Ok,
    what about the most recent trade of soldier Bowe Bergdahl for five terrorists. After all, the Cuban State features in the “Terrorist
    Sponsor list” and Mr. Gross could be a freedom and democracy fighter, like all
    the American soldiers around the world. A digital freedom fighter if you want.
    What about one for one, would you support Obama administration in that scenario?
    What realistic approach would you be willing to take to gave the families of
    these poor bast**ds some relief.

    Or in your CGI generated world view any “concession” to an anachronic, third world regime leads to the slippery slope, where Liberal-Christian values would be utterly undermined?
    Wait. ..Is this like when the Super-Hero loses self-confidence, for like, 5
    secounds, and the Super- Villain taken advantage of the temporally super power disability
    snatch the Heroine from the skyscraper top? Oh, no! I hope hi get a good kick
    in the a** at the end.

  • June 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm
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    You provided your assumptions in your previous post…I don’t need to give you examples…simply read it again. There are lots of patrotic Americans who don’t exude the arrogance that you do. Being patrotic, and being arrogant, are not at all one in the same…nor should they be. Your so called ‘special role’ as a nation in the world does not make you special. It doesn’t give you free license to support lording over any nation, government, or people. And it certainly doesn’t give you the right to distort the facts at your convenience to further your fear-mongering and over-the-top dilusions concerning the threat of the Cuban government.

  • June 23, 2014 at 9:15 pm
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    Humberto, you need a few more exclamation points thrown into your rebuttals. Otherwise, I just can’t take you seriously.

  • June 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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    Spy for spy is an age-old tradition in international diplomacy. Gross is not a spy but a civilian contractor. Not the same thing. If releasing Mr. Gross is the “decent human position” as you say, then why doesn’t the Castro regime release him for humanitarian purposes? Because despite the ‘decency of the act’, the politics of his release warrant a trade. While I didn’t catch the last Spiderman movie, if previous versions were any example, the CGI involved in making that movie is anything but simple. Don’t confuse a simple plot with the sophistication of what is necessary behind the scenes.

  • June 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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    What part of my reality is twisted? You make the accusation but you didn’t share an example. Which assumption is bent? Again, please share an example. I would assume you will offer more than just your opinion. While your opinion of reality is indeed valid to you, it is still just your opinion and no more valid than mine or anyone else’s. Yes, I am biased against the Castro regime. I hate oppression and tyranny. I don’t retreat from that bias. If that is the handicap to which you refer, I am not blind to it at all. On the contrary, I share my bias frequently here at HT to contribute in my small and humble way to expanding democracy to Cuba. If being a patriotic American sounds arrogant to you, I will leave you to resolve that yourself. Americans have a special role in the world today. This is not propaganda. This is reality. I agree that cooperation is the ideal strategy but only when the best interests of all parties is served. Releasing the three Cuban spies in exchange for Mr. Gross is not in the US best interest.

  • June 23, 2014 at 8:59 am
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    While it may not be politically correct for the protagonists central to this issue to use the term “hostage”, it’s use by those of us not directly affected is no less valid. How do YOU explain that Mr. Gross had traveled to Cuba in his own name at least 4 times previously on the same mission to distribute high-tech gear. Likewise, how do you explain that Cuban customs allowed this high-tech gear in the country upon Gross’ arrival at Jose Marti airport? If his crimes were a threat to national security, he should have been stopped on his first trip. If the gear he was giving away were truly dangerous, it should have been confiscated upon his arrival. If his trial was anything other than a sham, it would have been open to international press and transcripts would be available for review. Mrs. Gross is desperate to bring her husband home. Of course, she is reluctant to criticize her husband’s kidnapper’s. She is exercising her rights as a US citizen. If she were Cuban, she would not have even the right to do that.

  • June 23, 2014 at 8:42 am
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    You seem to make a lot of assumptions to support your twisted sense of reality. Of course, many of your assumptions are a bit bent because of YOUR bias against the Cuban government. With your last post, thank you for proving me correct about just how arrogant you can really be. Unfortunately for you, you’re completely oblivious to your handicap that won’t allow you to keep an open mind. You’ve been swallowed whole by your country’s propaganda mill. Your arrogant sense of entitlement is your short-coming to acknowledging that mutual cooperation is the only logical and fair solution to effectively resolve this matter.

  • June 23, 2014 at 8:32 am
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    What about Anna Chapman and the Russian network spy, they were expeditedly swap, what’s the difference, nukes? Those individuals are suffering and they release won’t change one iota Castro’s or American antics. The regiment will not last a minute less and the UsaId -NSA are going to have the same budget.
    There are rational people who see through the ideological smoke screen right away and Take the decent human position , and those armchair warriors who’s world view are as sophisticated as the last Spiderman movie.

  • June 23, 2014 at 7:53 am
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    >>>ENeither Mr Gross nor the 3 remaining members of the Wasp spy ring, present a national security risk for Cuba or USA, so in humanitarian terms the most rational thing is an exchange. Politicians are experts in finding face saving solutions, as they spin the hell of less complicated arregment that this one. The rest is Dick waving games. If you ask any hostages situation expert or game theorists they going to said that Castro’s approch it the best in this situation

  • June 23, 2014 at 6:53 am
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    I doubt if freeing Gross would change much. Most likely there have been discussions in private and Obama has refused to reconsider the case of the five. Otherwise Cuba would have released him already. Though I still think Cuba should release him on humanitarian grounds as he has been punished enough.

  • June 22, 2014 at 9:34 pm
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    Fair? A third world tinpot dictatorship takes a low level contract operative hostage and hopes to use him to negotiate with the most powerful country in the history of the planet. The Castros plan all along was to exchange the convicted spies who are seen as national heroes in Cuba for Alan Gross. That’s not a fair exchange, that’s Disneyland! We can not encourage this kind of behavior. It would only embolden these guys to do it again.

  • June 22, 2014 at 8:07 pm
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    Reading some responses sounds like going to the store, picking up your weekly grocery and expecting to pay your bill sometime later.
    Although only a couple of posters and a handful of Cuban Americans in Miami still come up with the silly, Saturday morning 6 year old cartoon, by calling Alan Gross a hostage, neither US-AID, his wife, the head of the Jewish Association in Cuba, the police report, nor Mr. Gross himself, have used this bogus assumption.
    He was caught red-handed, he had a signed contract with US-AID, his wife is demanding not Cuba, but the US State Department and still, President Barack Obama is playing games sending letter, but refuse to talk with his jailer.
    Mr. Alan Gross need to be home as the three Cuban/Five should be set free NOW.

  • June 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm
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    Terry Downey!! Alan Gross is not a spy! Even the Castro “government” stated it so! They sentenced him for “crimes against the state” whatever that means! If the USA give into extortion then what? FYI, the transcript of the trial or photos of the “evidence” have never been made public! Nor has has the international press been able to interview Gross! Nor was the international press allow in his trial! Can you spell Kangaroo Court?

    N.Y. TIMES: Senators Urge Castro to Release American – By JONATHAN WEISMAN – February 24, 2012

    Mr. Gross, who was accused of bringing satellite and other communications equipment to Cuba, was convicted of crimes against the state, not espionage. Cuban authorities “do not consider Alan Gross a spy,” Mr. Leahy said. Mr. Gross had traveled to Cuba five times in 2009 under his own name before his arrest.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/us/politics/senators-meet-with-raul-castro-seeking-release-of-alan-gross.html

  • June 22, 2014 at 9:36 am
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    Raul HAS done it…he’s offered a fair an equitable solution that serves both sides. It’s YOUR government that is holding up the show for Alan Gross. I have no anti-US bias…but I do take exception to stupidity and arrogance. Get over yourself.

  • June 21, 2014 at 5:52 pm
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    Not to be overly juvenile but why don’t you insist that the Castros “just do it”. Why does your anti-US bias blind you to the reality that Cuba stands to gain more with a unilateral humanitarian release of Alan Gross and Obama certainly will lose should he capitulate to the hostage-taking scheme the Castros put into play when they snatched Gross at the airport.

  • June 21, 2014 at 5:02 pm
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    Why not just get on with it and do a simultaneous release on both sides? Or is that simply too easy as a solution for you? The Cuban government has proposed a fair and equitable solution that serves both sides. It’s not Raul who is holding up the show. It’s Obama and the US government who are unwilling to meet half way. Gross is not a hostage, just as the remaining Cuban 3 are not hostages.

  • June 21, 2014 at 10:34 am
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    Even Stevie Wonder can see the obstructionist position the Castros are taking here. Obama says keeping Gross as a hostage ‘obstructs’ progress in moving toward normalization. The Castros respond by saying “we are willing to release Gross but only if you give us back our spies”. The Castros should call the President’s bluff and let Gross go back home. They can do it with all the bluster and propaganda they are famous for. The afterglow of public approval would turn all eyes on Obama to respond in kind. I remain convinced that the Castros have no real interest in bringing their spies home. Like Elian González before them, these convicted spies represent a rally post for Castro propaganda. Like the US embargo, this issue helps to distract Cubans from the real problems that country faces.

  • June 21, 2014 at 9:10 am
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    Like the Nike commercial….just do it! Get it over with. It will be painless, and clear the stage for the advancement of normalized relations and a new era of mutual cooperation. Less talk and more action is what is needed. Obama needs to put politics aside and do the right thing for all concerned.

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