Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Member of Cuba 5 says he’s optimistic about deal

    Posted on Thursday, 09.04.14

    Member of Cuba 5 says he’s optimistic about deal
    BY MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN AND ANNE-MARIE GARCIA
    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    HAVANA — A Cuban intelligence agent who spent more than 15 years in a
    United States prison said Thursday that he’s optimistic that softening
    U.S. attitudes will lead to the liberation of three fellow agents who
    remain behind bars.

    Fernando Gonzalez, whom the Cuban government lauds as a national hero,
    told The Associated Press that one of the most positive signs he’s seen
    is former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s statement in a recent book
    that she recommended that President Barack Obama end the decades-long
    U.S. embargo on Cuba.

    Cuba has linked the case of its three agents to that of Alan Gross, a
    U.S. government subcontractor serving a 15-year prison sentence for
    bringing sensitive technology into the country. Havana has said
    repeatedly it wants to sit down with Washington to negotiate the fate of
    Gross and the Cubans, who were arrested in 1998 and convicted on charges
    including espionage. Cuba argues that they were only keeping tabs on
    militant exile groups blamed for terror attacks on the island.

    Gonzalez said that “at this moment there’s a political context that
    makes me cautiously optimistic.”

    “There’s a growing interest there in changing U.S. policy toward Cuba,”
    he said. “I would like to think that before finishing his term,
    President Obama would decide to improve relations with Latin America.
    That would involve a change with Cuba and that would necessarily take
    place through a solution to the case of my three colleagues.”

    Asked if it would be impossible for Cuba to free Gross without the
    immediate U.S. release of the three imprisoned Cubans, he said, “I think
    it would be very difficult.”

    “From my personal point of view, I think the liberation of my three
    colleagues would be necessary.”

    The U.S. has called for Gross to be released immediately, saying he “has
    been imprisoned by Cuban authorities for more than four years for doing
    nothing more than helping Cuban citizens gain access to the Internet.”

    A lawyer for Gross, who has spent more than four years imprisoned in
    Cuba, said last month that his client cannot take life in prison much
    longer and has said his goodbyes to his wife and a daughter. Gross’
    legal team could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

    Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working here to covertly set up
    Internet access. His attorney, Scott Gilbert, said that his client “has
    withdrawn” and told him “life in prison is not a life worth living.”
    Gross has previously said through his lawyer that his 65th birthday,
    which took place in May, would be the last one that he “celebrates in
    Havana, one way or the other.”

    At the time Gross was arrested, he was working as a subcontractor for
    the U.S. government’s U.S. Agency for International Development. He had
    traveled repeatedly to Cuba on a mission to expand Internet access using
    sensitive technology typically available only to governments, a 2012 AP
    investigation found. Cuba considers USAID’s programs illegal attempts by
    the U.S. to undermine its government.

    Gonzalez said that as a former prisoner he felt personally sympathetic
    toward Gross, 65, but felt that the U.S. bore full blame for Gross’
    predicament.

    “From a human point of view I don’t wish prison on anybody. From that
    point of I can understand the situation he finds himself in, but I also
    understand that responsibility for Mr. Gross falls 100 percent on the
    government of the U.S.,” Gonzalez said.

    Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

    Source: HAVANA: Member of Cuba 5 says he’s optimistic about deal –
    Latest News – MiamiHerald.com –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/04/4328179/member-of-cuban-5-says-hes-optimistic.html