Share This Page

Lawmakers visit Cuba in effort to rescue jailed U.S. contractor

| Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 7:57 p.m.
FILE - This handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan Gross (with his wife, Judy). Gross is an American who has been imprisoned in Cuba for nearly three years. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

HAVANA — A seven-member delegation of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Cuba on Monday in the latest effort to move forward political relations that have been at a standstill since government contractor Alan Gross was imprisoned here in 2009.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who visited Gross and met with Cuban President Raul Castro and other high-ranking officials a year ago, is leading the group of five senators and two House members on a three-day visit.

Despite the stalemate, more people traveled between the two countries in 2012, and cash remittances sent to the island increased, as did food-for-cash sales under a 2000 amendment to the U.S. trade embargo.

Between 450,000 and 500,000 Cuban Americans and Americans visited the communist nation, according to tourism sources, and food sales increased by $100 million to $457 million, making the United States one of Cuba's top 10 trading partners and second provider of tourists after Canada.

“Every one of us has an interest in Cuba,” Leahy of Vermont said upon arrival.

“We all want to see relations improve and both sides take steps in that direction,” he said.

Leahy said the delegation would like to take Gross with them when it leaves for Haiti on Wednesday, but doubted that was possible.

“There are obvious problems between our two countries, but we are not here to negotiate. We are here to listen and then go back home and talk about what we see,” he said.

The lawmakers, all Democrats except for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, include Rep. Chris Van Hollen who represents Gross' district in Maryland, Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.

Members of the group said they planned to meet with Gross, parliament President Ricardo Alarcon, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and perhaps Raul Castro. They will tour writer Ernest Hemingway's estate on the outskirts of Havana and discuss issues with members of the diplomatic corps.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.