Alan Gross Hopes Rise as U.S. Official Praises Talks With Cuba

Jailed Jewish Aid Worker Meets Visting American Diplomat


By Reuters

Published January 10, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A U.S. State Department official in Cuba for migration talks praised on Friday the tone of current relations between the United States and Cuba, and visited jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross during a three-day trip to the Communist-run island to demonstrate Washington’s concern over his plight.

Edward Alex Lee, the U.S. acting deputy assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, said migration talks held on Thursday were “very constructive and have led to some positive outcomes,” but he did not elaborate.

Lee said he also met with dissidents and other government officials without divulging the contents of his conversations.

Talks between the two countries were suspended in 2003 by President George W. Bush. They were briefly revived by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009, but were suspended in 2011 when Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison for installing Internet networks for Cuban Jews in a U.S. program Cuba considers subversive.

Cuba, whose delegation was led by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director general of the U.S. Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement that the talks had taken place in a “respectful environment”.

The strained relationship between the long-time foes has eased since Obama began his second term in office. Recently, State Department and Cuban officials told Reuters that contacts have been cordial - highlighted by Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial in South Africa in December.

“Despite our historically difficult relationship, over the course of the past year and a half we have been able to speak to each other in a respectful and thoughtful manner,” Lee told a rare press conference in Havana.

“Despite barriers, the U.S. and Cuba continue to seek opportunities to cooperate and advance our shared interests,” he said, citing ongoing discussions around resuming direct postal service, preventing oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and coordinated search and rescue operations at sea.

The migration discussion was the latest high profile event between the two governments, which do not have diplomatic relations. The last such meeting was held July 2013.

Under accords signed in 1994 and 1995, both governments pledged to promote safe, legal and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States and to meet every six months to review the issue.

As part of the accords, the United States also agreed to accept 20,000 Cuban immigrants every year.

Gross’s arrest in late 2009 and sentencing in March 2011 stalled a brief period of detente in U.S.-Cuba relations after Obama took office and quickly loosened restrictions on travel and remittances to the island for Cuban Americans with relatives in Communist-run Cuba.

Cuba relaxed its own restrictions on travel in January 2013, increasing the number of Cubans able to travel legally to the United States and allowing prominent dissidents to travel abroad freely since then.

The United States recently began issuing five-year visas to some Cubans, instead of the usual six months.

But barriers still exist to more fundamental change in relations, principally the fate of Gross and four Cuban intelligence agents imprisoned in the United States more than 15 years ago, both discussed during the talks, Lee said.

“Throughout the discussions we expressed our sincerest hope that the government of Cuba allows Alan Gross to return to his family … and we took note of what the Cubans said about their prisoners,” Lee said, adding he had visited with the contractor but could not divulge the content of a private discussion.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.