Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba hints at swapping US contractor for spies

    Cuba hints at swapping US contractor for spies

    By Juan Tamayo/The Miami Herald

    One week after President Barack Obama won re-election, Havana offered a

    "draft agenda" for US-Cuba negotiations that largely repeats its

    years-old positions but almost directly offers to swap American Alan

    for five Cuban spies.

    The statement by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla Lopez to the

    UN General Assembly on Tuesday received little initial media attention.

    It was disseminated more broadly on Wednesday by his ministry and Cuba's

    diplomatic mission in Washington.

    Obama has lifted nearly all limits on Cuban-American and

    remittances to the island, allowed educational visits by other US

    residents, and restarted _ and then stopped again – bilateral talks on

    migration issues.

    But his administration has repeatedly said that more significant

    improvements in bilateral relations can come only after Cuba frees

    Gross, a US Agency for International Development sub-contractor serving

    a 15-year sentence.

    Wayne Smith, a former chief US diplomat in Havana and now a senior

    fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, said

    Rodriguez laid out a list of issues that Havana has long said it wanted

    to discuss in any bilateral talks.

    "He simply reiterated their position. I don't see anything new there,"

    Smith said.

    "This is a non-starter. Same demands as in the past. No offers of major

    concessions on , etc.," Jaime Suchlicki, head of the

    Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the of

    Miami, wrote in an e-mail.

    Arturo Lopez-Levy, a former Cuban government analyst now lecturing at

    the University of Denver, called Rodriguez's speech "a list of maximum

    demands that shows the bilateral conflict can be handled better but not

    solved" during Obama's next term.

    But he added that the foreign minister's words evoked Obama's offer of a

    "new start" in relations with Cuba shortly after he won the White House

    in 2008.

    The US state department said it had no comment on the Rodriguez proposal.

    "I am again submitting to the US government a draft agenda for a

    bilateral dialogue aimed at moving towards the normalisation of

    relations," Rodriguez said.

    His agenda items included lifting all US sanctions; removing Cuba from

    the US list of countries with links to international terrorism; and

    ending the Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet-foot, dry-foot policies,

    which Havana complains unfairly lure Cuban migrants to the US.

    Other draft agenda items included compensation for damages caused by the

    US sanctions; the return of the territory now used by the US Navy base

    in Guantanamo; an end to Radio/TV Marti; and a halt to US financial

    support for dissidents.

    Rodriguez also offered to negotiate agreements in areas of mutual

    interest, such as drug and people smuggling, terrorism, migration,

    natural disasters, the environment and postal services, but made no

    mention of human rights or democracy.

    "An essential element in this agenda," the foreign minister added, is

    the release of the five Cubans convicted of spying-related charges in Miami.

    Havana claims they were trying to avert possible terrorist acts by exiles.