Two U.S. senators got a rare two-hour meeting on Tuesday with a Maryland contractor imprisoned in Cuba who told them he wants to come home. Alan Gross, 65, has served four years of his 15-year sentence for allegedly bringing communications equipment into Cuba while working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2011.
Gross had been working covertly in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access. Cuba's President Raul Castro called him a spy, and Cuban officials said Gross was contracted to work for American intelligence services — a charge denied by Gross and the U.S. government.
The senators, Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrat Tom Udall of New Mexico, took their getting a two-hour private meeting with Gross, who had been refusing to see officials from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, as an “optimistic” sign. They said Gross, who earlier this year went on a hunger strike, was positive in their talks and noted he “really wants to go home.”
The pair said they intended to speak with Cuban authorities about negotiating his release. Cuba hasn't had formal diplomatic relations with the U.S. since 1961. It views USAID's programs as American efforts to undercut its government.
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