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
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
updated 2:08 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT