The wife of a US contractor detained in Cuba on suspicion of spying visits him on island

By Will Weissert, AP
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wife of detained US contractor visits him in Cuba

HAVANA — The wife of an American contractor detained in Cuba for nine months on suspicion of spying has been allowed to come to the island and visit him, two people familiar with the case said Thursday.

Alan and Judy Gross met in mid-August, apparently at a beach home provided by the Cuban government, the person told The Associated Press. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, and the fact they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Gross’s family had no comment, nor did the Cuban government. Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains instead of an embassy, would say only that American consular officials meet with Gross monthly.

Gross, 60, a native of Potomac, Maryland, was working for a firm contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested Dec. 3 and sent to Havana’s high-security Villa Marista prison. He has not been charged, but Cuban officials including President Raul Castro have accused him of spying.

The U.S. says Gross committed no crime and his wife has said he brought communications equipment intended for island Jewish groups, not for political use.

It was not clear if Judy Gross’ visit signaled that the case is any closer to resolution. Gross’ long detention has been held up as a key stumbling block to improved U.S.-Cuba relations.

Visiting New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said during an Aug. 26 trip to Havana that he appealed to Cuban authorities to treat the detention as a “humanitarian case,” and that he thought he had made some inroads.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations who met with Fidel Castro and other officials during a recent visit, also said she got the sense Cuba would like to see the case resolved.

Judy Gross’s visit comes amid rumors that the Obama administration might loosen travel restrictions to allow more students, researchers and educators to come to the island.

America has maintained a 48-year embargo that chokes off nearly all trade to Cuba, and prohibits American tourists from coming here. The project Gross worked with was part of a $40 million a year USAID program to promote democracy and political change on the island.

U.S. officials defend it, saying they will never give up on pushing for democracy and openness in Cuba, but the program has been criticized by detractors as ineffective and counterproductive.

Cuban officials have been clamoring for more family access to five Cuban agents serving long sentences in the United States for infiltrating anti-Castro groups. Cuba considers the men heroes.

will not be displayed