Cuban spy calls for prisoner swap, like with Taliban

A former Cuban spy urged Washington to swap three detained agents for the freedom of American Alan Gross, citing the deal that saw a US soldier released over the weekend.

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 03, 2014, 00:34 AM IST

Havana: A former Cuban spy urged Washington on Monday to swap three detained agents for the freedom of American Alan Gross, citing the deal that saw a US soldier released over the weekend.

Gross, 65, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba in 2011 after being convicted of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state" for allegedly distributing communications equipment as a USAID contractor.

Havana has suggested it could release Gross if Washington freed the remaining "Cuban Five" intelligence agents, who were convicted in a 1998 US spy case -- a prospect Washington has soundly rejected.

But Fernando Gonzalez, one of the two "Cuban Five" prisoners freed after serving his jail term, said the release of Taliban hostage Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five senior Taliban militants held in Guantanamo, shows Washington could make a similar deal with Havana.
"It is obvious that all that is needed is the political will of the US government" to see to Gross` freedom, Gonzalez said.

US President Barack Obama "decided that the life of an American soldier who was a prisoner was worth a swap," he added, saying it is hard to understand why negotiations for Gross` freedom might "not produce something similar”.

Washington has defended the swap as critical to saving Bergdahl`s life, as his health had deteriorated after five years spent as the only US soldier held captive by the Taliban since the war began in 2001.
The United States 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.