Skip to main content

U.S. delegation seeks release of contractor in Cuba

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
updated 7:11 AM EST, Tue February 19, 2013
The U.S. government is applying new pressure on Cuba to release an American contractor, Alan Gross.
The U.S. government is applying new pressure on Cuba to release an American contractor, Alan Gross.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. congressional delegation arrives in Havana
  • Alan Gross has been held since 2009; family says he has health problems
  • Previous attempts to win Gross's release have been unsuccessful

Havana (CNN) -- The U.S. government is applying new pressure on Cuba to release an American contractor, who officials say suffers from chronic health problems.

One of the largest congressional delegations to the island in recent memory arrived in Havana on Monday with hopes of freeing Alan Gross.

Gross is serving a 15-year jail sentence for bringing banned satellite communications equipment into Cuba as part of a State Department program to spread democracy.

Gross, who has been held since 2009, said he was working to connect Cuba's small Jewish community to the Internet. But Cuban authorities said he had imported sensitive equipment to destabilize the government.

Cuban official talks about Alan Gross
2012: Who is Alan Gross?

Gross is battling chronic health problems, according to his lawyers, family and the State Department. The Cuban government has disputed reports that his health is compromised.

The U.S. delegation was led by Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was accompanied by fellow senators Sherrod Brown, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Debbie Stabenow, all Democrats, and Jeff Flake, a Republican. Democratic Reps Jim McGovern and Chris Van Hollen also made the trip.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure than when we leave in a couple of days to have Alan on the plane with me," Leahy said.

Leahy traveled to Cuba last year with a similar delegation to press for Gross's release.

At that time, the group met with him in a military hospital where he is being held, and also met with Cuban president Raul Castro.

Cuban officials have not publicly commented on the arrival of the new delegation. But previously they have argued for the United States to lift a long-standing trade embargo, remove Cuba from a list of states that finance terrorism, and release five Cuban intelligence agents.

The State Department has rejected the notion of any prisoner swap and has said Havana cannot expect changes in U.S. policy until Gross is freed.

"We need a more mature policy toward Cuba," McGovern told reporters at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. "The wall that separates our nations needs to be torn down."

The delegation plans to travel to Haiti on Wednesday.

Cuba accuses U.S. of lying about jailed American's health

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT