Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba agent – Guantánamo prisoner swap a precedent

    Posted on Monday, 06.02.14

    Cuba agent: Guantánamo prisoner swap a precedent

    HAVANA — The exchange of five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo for an
    American soldier held captive in Afghanistan could set a precedent for a
    similar swap with Cuba, a Cuban intelligence agent who spent years
    imprisoned in the United States said Monday.

    Fernando Gonzalez, who returned to the island in February after serving
    more than 15 years behind bars in the United States, said the deal to
    secure the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has a clear parallel
    to the cases of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross and three Cuban
    agents still imprisoned in the United States.

    “It is obvious that the only thing needed is the will on the part of the
    U.S. government to bring about that swap or exchange,” Gonzalez said in
    his first news conference back in Havana. “This latest development makes
    that clear.”

    Diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana had no immediate
    comment. In the past, U.S. officials have said they consider the cases
    of Gross and the agents are not comparable.

    Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working to set up
    hard-to-detect Internet networks for the island’s tiny Jewish community
    as part of a U.S. government development contract. He says his actions
    posed no threat to the Cuban state. But Havana considers such programs
    to be an affront to its sovereignty, and he was sentenced to 15 years.

    Havana has said repeatedly it wants to sit down with Washington to
    negotiate the fate of Gross and the three members of the so-called Cuban
    Five who remain imprisoned in the United States. The agents were
    arrested in 1998 and convicted on charges including espionage, although
    Cuba argues that they were only keeping tabs on militant exile groups
    blamed for terror attacks on the island.

    “On this side there is nothing standing in the way” of an exchange,
    Gonzalez said. “On this side we have transparently and with clarity
    shown an intention for this situation to be resolved and for
    humanitarian concerns to be taken into account on both sides.”

    Gross, a 65-year-old Maryland native, suffers from various health
    problems. His U.S. lawyer said in April that he is determined to go home
    within the next year, either alive or dead.

    Rene Gonzalez, who is not related to Fernando Gonzalez, was the first of
    the Cuban agents to walk free and returned to Cuba in 2013. Antonio
    Guerrero is the next one scheduled to be released, in 2017.

    The cases of Gross and the Cuban Five have been a major sticking point
    for Cold War foes Havana and Washington, which have not had formal
    relations for more than five decades.

    Bergdahl was released over the weekend after five years in Taliban
    captivity, stirring debate in Washington over whether the exchange could
    put other Americans at greater risk of being taken as bargaining chips.

    Source: HAVANA: Cuba agent: Guantánamo prisoner swap a precedent – Cuba
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