Thu Jan 28, 11:58 AM
By Nelson Acosta
HAVANA (Reuters) - A U.S. contractor accused by Cuba of distributing
illegal communications equipment remains under investigation, and his
alleged actions would be considered a "serious crime" anywhere in the
world, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Thursday.
Whether Rodriguez signaled that Cuba will deal harshly with the man
identified in media reports as 60-year-old Alan Gross was not clear, but
the case has endangered modest efforts by President Barack Obama to
improve long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations.
"In any place in the world, what has been attributed to what you call
the American contractor would be a serious crime," Rodriguez told
reporters after a ceremonial event in Havana.
He said Gross has not been officially charged, but continues to be
"under investigation." Cuba has previously accused Gross of working for
U.S. "secret services."
Gross has been detained since early December when Cuba grabbed him on
grounds he had given satellite communications gear to government opponents.
His employer, Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc., has said he
was setting up an Internet system for a "non-dissident religious
organization" under a U.S.-funded program promoting democracy in Cuba.
Under Cuban law, Gross could face several years in jail if tried and
The detention has prompted calls in Washington for Obama to take a hard
line with the Cuban government and put an end for now to what has been a
slight thaw in relations.
Obama has slightly eased the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against
Cuba and initiated talks on migration and reinstatement of postal
service. But he has said further progress depends on improvement on
human rights in Cuba.
In Havana, the government has recently stepped up criticism of Obama and
used the contractor case to say he has not changed U.S. policy aimed at
subverting the government.
"The government of the United States has not renounced the destruction
of the Cuban revolution. It has not renounced trying to change the
social and political regime of our country," Rodriguez said.
U.S. officials in Havana have said little about the case, but were
permitted to visit Gross at least once.
It is not known if there are behind-the-scenes negotiations taking
place, but Rodriguez repeated what President Raul Castro has said before
-- that Cuba is open to exchanging prisoners to gain the release of five
Cuban agents jailed in the United States for their roles in the 1996
shootdown of two U.S. private planes piloted by anti-Castro Cuban exiles.
Rodriguez said on Wednesday that Cuba and U.S. officials will meet in
February for a second round of talks on migration issues. On Thursday,
he said the talks will take place February 19 in Havana.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Philip Barbara)
Detained contractor still under investigation in Cuba - Yahoo! Canada
News (28 January 2010)