HAVANA, April 10 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Cuba has called on Washington to help jointly resolve the case of U.S contractor Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in jail for attempted subversion and other crimes, the Foreign Ministry said.
The call came a day after Gross issued a letter indicating he is a victim of the long-running political dispute between the two countries, and demanding the two governments resolve his case.
Since Gross was first convicted in 2009, Cuba has offered a type of prisoner exchange involving three Cuban nationals accused of spying in Miami and imprisoned in 1998, but the U.S. has so far refused.
“The Cuban government reiterates its willingness to seek, in conjunction with the U.S. government, a solution to the case of Mr. Gross that is acceptable to both parties and also addresses the humanitarian concerns regarding the three Cubans … that continue their more than 15-year unjust imprisonment in the U.S.,” the ministry said.
Washington claims Gross, who was working in Cuba as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development ( USAID), is innocent.
USAID was implicated last week in covert “regime change ” operation in Cuba, leading the 64-year-old Gross to announce he was going on a hunger strike to “protest against his treatment by the U.S. and Cuban governments.”
Josefina Vidal, director general of U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said Gross, who has been in jail for four years and four months, has received “decent and dignified treatment since his arrest and is being held in a hospital,” so he can receive medical care for “the chronic diseases normal for his age.”
The ministry added that the contractor has been visited by his wife and lawyer. He is in constant telephone and email contact with them and other relatives and friends, and is visited monthly by U.S. consular officials and others.
Gross was arrested on Dec 3, 2009, in Havana, and convicted of “providing sophisticated and non-commercial telecommunications technology to local counter-revolutionary groups.”
The administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, on Tuesday tried to justify the existence of a “Cuban Twitter” named Zunzuneo, a social media network built to stir unrest in the island.
During a hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, Shah said the programme, unveiled last week by the Associated Press (AP), operated discreetly and was described in congressional budget justifications.
He said USAID employees have been contacting the oversight committee to complain that such secretive programmes put them at risk because they drive perceptions that the agency is engaged in intelligence-like activities.
In testifying before the Senate Committee Shah, said he didn’t “specifically” know who was behind the idea of creating the network of “discrete profile.”
The scandal also raised questions to Washington, which has maintained that the project was neither “secret” nor “covert,” but, rather a “discrete” form of promoting democracy.
According to Gross’ lawyer, the 64-year-old had started a hunger strike a week ago to protest his treatment by the American and Cuban governments.
Commenting on the matter, Shah said he had worked personally on Gross’ behalf. However, winning Gross freedom was State Department officials’ responsibility. — NNN-AGENCIES