News Column

Cuban Offer Raises Hope for Prisoner Swap

Nov. 16, 2012

Cuba has again offered the United States an agenda for bilateral negotiations, officials say, but this time is more direct about a possible prisoner exchange.

While essentially unchanged from one issued before the U.S. elections, the list opens the door for the possible exchange of an imprisoned American for five Cuban spies, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla Lopez said Tuesday "an essential element" in the agenda is the release by the United States of five Cubans convicted on espionage-related charges.

"An act of justice, or at least a humanitarian solution, will arouse the gratitude of my people and a response by our government," Rodriguez noted.

While Rodriguez was not more specific about his intentions, analysts believe he was offering a swap for Alan Gross, a subcontractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development who is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

Gross, 63, was arrested in 2009 for giving three Cuban Jews satellite telephones, which Cuba saw as part of a plan to topple the government.

The stalemate over the swap is blocking negotiations, said Wayne Smith, a former chief U.S. diplomat in Havana.

"We've got to get around this in some way," said Smith, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington.

The Obama administration has not yet responded to the new offer.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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