News Column

Cuba Renews Call for US to Swap Prisoners

Dec 7, 2012

Cuba said Wednesday it was open to "serious talks" with U.S. officials on the possibility of swapping prisoners to secure the release of jailed U.S. citizen Alan Gross.

Gross is serving a 15-year sentence in Havana for "subversive activities," and the United States is holding five Cuban prisoners convicted in the late 1990s of spying.

Cuban foreign ministry official Josefina Vidal said Havana was renewing its invitation to hold "serious talks" aimed at resolving both cases.

"The government of Cuba once again invites the government of the United States to serious talks on these issues to reach a humanitarian solution acceptable to both parties," said Vidal.

Gross, 63, was arrested in Cuba on Dec. 3, 2009 for illegally distributing satellite communications equipment. He is now suing the U.S. government and his employer for $60 million, claiming they failed to warn him of the dangers of mission and did not protect him.

Washington has asked for his release on humanitarian grounds and Cuba has indicated the negotiations should include the release of the "Cuban Five," which has been repeatedly rejected by Washington. "The U.S. government has never seriously addressed this case and has reiterated once more its untenable position of having nothing to negotiate with Cuba toward finding a solution," said Vidal.

She said U.S. authorities were demanding a "unilateral decision" from Cuba, without considering Cuba's humanitarian concerns for the five prisoners jailed in the United States.

Cuba insists its agents in Miami were spying on Cuban activists trying to overthrow the island's Communist government, and posed no danger to the United States.

Washington denies Gross was involved in any illicit activity in Cuba, saying he was there to improve Internet service for the island's small Jewish community.

The two sides have been sparring over Gross's health and Cuban health officials have ruled out that he could suffer cancer.

If Washington continued to make "false statements about the health of the U.S. prisoner, the Cuban government will be forced to disclose new evidence," said Vidal, without offering any details.

Washington is now pressuring the UN Human Rights Council to declare Gross the victim of "arbitrary detention," said Vidal.

Source: Copyright Xinhua News Agency - CEIS 2012

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