Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba says its ready to negotiate Gross fate

    Posted on Wednesday, 09.12.12

    Cuba says its ready to negotiate Gross fate
    Associated Press

    HAVANA -- A senior Cuban diplomat said Wednesday her country is prepared
    to negotiate a solution in the case of a jailed American contractor, but
    is awaiting a U.S. response.

    Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal also rejected allegations by
    the wife of 63-year-old Maryland native Alan Gross that her husband's
    health is failing after more than 2 1/2 years in custody.

    "Cuba reiterates its willingness to talk with the United States
    government to find a solution in the case of Mr. Gross and continues to
    await an answer," Vidal, who heads the ministry's Office of North
    American Affairs, said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

    She gave no details. It was the first time a Cuban official has hinted
    that a specific proposal has been made and indicated that the ball was
    in Washington's court.

    Previously, senior officials in President Raul Castro's government have
    raised the case of five Cuban agents sentenced to long jail terms in the
    United States, though they have not spelled out publicly that they are
    seeking an exchange.

    U.S. officials say privately, however, that Havana has made it
    increasingly clear they want a quid pro quo, something Washington has
    repeatedly rejected.

    Jared Genser, a Washington-based attorney for the Gross family, said in
    a telephone interview he knows of no active proposal that the Cuban
    government has put forward for his client's release.

    He said American officials had long made clear to the Cubans that
    trading Gross for the Cuban agents is a nonstarter.

    "My definition of a proposal is something that is specific and
    actionable," he said.

    Genser challenged Vidal to publicly name a date, time and location where
    the Cuban government would willing to meet with U.S. officials to
    negotiate a release.

    Gross's wife, Judy, traveled to Cuba and visited her husband in custody
    several times last week. She said upon her return to the United States
    that she feared he would not survive his ordeal.

    Gross, who was obese when he was arrested in December 2009, has lost
    more than 100 pounds in custody. His wife and lawyer say he also suffers
    from arthritis and has developed a mass behind his right shoulder blade
    that is not believed to be cancerous.

    Vidal said the American's physical condition is fine.

    "Mr. Gross's health continues to be normal and he exercises regularly,"
    she said in the brief statement.

    Genser, the Gross family lawyer, called on the Cuban government to allow
    a doctor of Gross's choosing to come in and perform a physical,
    something he said the Cubans have rejected.

    "She says he's in great health, so they've got nothing to hide," Genser

    Gross was working on a USAID-funded democracy building program when he
    was arrested at Havana's Jose Marti airport. He says he was only trying
    to provide internet service to the island's small Jewish community.

    Cuba says the multimillion dollar programs are an effort by Washington
    to undermine the government, and has noted that Gross was carrying
    sophisticated communications equipment.

    Gross was sentenced to 15 years, and has lost his final appeal, leaving
    him out of legal options.


    Jessica Gresko contributed from Washington, D.C.

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