US lawmakers meet with American jailed in Cuba
Four US lawmakers Monday visited an American serving a 15-year prison term in Cuba, urging Havana and Washington to being negotiations "without preconditions" to secure his release.
Alan Gross, who turns 65 on Friday, was arrested in December 2009 for allegedly distributing telecommunications equipment in Cuba while he was working as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
California representative Barbara Lee, who headed the US delegation, told reporters the Democratic lawmakers "visited Alan Gross this morning and chatted with his legal team."
They also met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and US diplomats on the island.
"We truly believe it is time for both countries to commit to negotiations without preconditions and we will tell the White House on our return," said Lee, who has visited Cuba in the past to promote dialogue between the neighbors.
Havana has suggested they might swap Gross's freedom if Washington freed the remaining "Cuban Five" intelligence agents, who were convicted in a 1998 US spy case. Two have been released after serving their sentences.
Havana acknowledges that the five men were agents but says they were spying on "terrorist" exiles and hails them as national heroes.
But Washington has rejected the possibility.
The US and Cuba have not had full diplomatic relations since 1961. In 1962, Washington imposed an economic embargo on the island, the only Communist-run country in the Americas.