US: Alan Gross' case is "crucial point" of ties with Cuba
Havana - The case of US citizen Alan Gross, who has been in prison in Cuba since 2009, is a "crucial point" in restoring ties between the two countries, a State Department spokesman said Friday in Havana.
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have insisted that "the United States wants a new relationship with Cuba," said Edward Alex Lee, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Gross was a contractor with a US government-sponsored aid programme when he was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2011 for distributing sophisticated telecommunications equipment in Cuba.
"We remain deeply concerned for his well-being," said Lee, who was on a visit to discuss bilateral migration issues.
Gross' family have said his health was not good and have demanded his release for humanitarian reasons. Washington demands his unconditional release, while Havana wants the release of four Cuban intelligence agents held in the United States since 1998.
Lee said he had met with Gross while in Havana, but he gave no further details of the visit, which he described as private.
By Isaac Risco
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