Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    New Mexico governor in Cuba, may seek release of U.S. contractor

    Posted on Monday, 08.23.10
    New Mexico governor in Cuba, may seek release of U.S. contractor BY JUAN O. TAMAYO

    New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who won the release of three Cuban political prisoners during a 1996 visit, was in again Monday to lead a trade mission.

    A senior Obama administration official said U.S. officials also expect Richardson to press Cuba to free Alan , a U.S. government subcontractor jailed there for almost nine months.

    Richardson “traveled to Havana, Cuba, as part of a mission to strengthen potential trade and cultural partnerships between New Mexico and Cuba,” his office said in a statement issued Sunday.

    “During the visit, Gov. Richardson will help market New Mexico commodities and follow up on inroads made on potential trade partnerships during a visit to Cuba last year,” the statement added.

    The senior Obama administration official said Richardson was also expected to seek the release of Gross, a Potomac, Md., subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

    “Gov. Bill Richardson is leading a trade mission for the state of New Mexico. We refer you to his office for details,” the official said in an e-mail to El Nuevo Herald.

    “As we and others have done, we expect Gov. Richardson to urge the Cuban government to immediately release Mr. Gross. He is not carrying a message from the administration,” the official added.

    Richardson advocates easing U.S. sanctions on Cuba and has made several trips to the island. He was last there on another trade mission a year ago, and a 1996 visit led to the release of three Cuban political prisoners.

    Gross was Dec. 3 in Havana after delivering satellite communications equipment to the island’s tiny Jewish community. He has not been officially charged, but Cuban officials have linked him to U.S. intelligence activities in their public comments on the case.