'Give and Take' Needed in Release of Prisoner

US Senator, back from a trip to Cuba, said that a "give and take" is needed by both sides to gain the release of Jewish-American Alan Gross


 A U.S. congressional delegation, led by Leah
A U.S. congressional delegation, led by Leah

US Senator Patrick Leahy, back from a trip to Cuba, said Sunday that a "give and take" is needed by both sides to gain the release of a US contractor being held on the communist-ruled island.

The Senator, who chairs the US Senate's Judiciary Committee, met with President Raul Castro and jailed US contractor Alan Gross during his visit last week to Cuba, AFP reported.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" show, Leahy said US pressure would not work on Cuba. Gross is "not going to be released by the Cubans because of pressure from the United States," he said. "There are ways that he can be released but it's going to require some give and take on both sides and some quiet negotiation."

Leahy said that if both sides stop looking at each other with a Cold War mentality, "I think we can find things (that would) not only to settle the Alan Gross issue, but a whole lot of other issues."

As an example, Leahy said "it makes no sense" to keep Cuba on a US terrorist list, noting that Cuba is currently hosting peace talks between the pro-US Colombian government and leftist Colombian guerrillas. "They've been very effective. They've worked with us on drug interdiction," the Senator added.

The US trade embargo on the island, in effect since the 1960s, is another issue that can be revisited, Leahy said.

Gross, 63, was arrested in December 2009 for distributing laptops and communications equipment to members of Cuba's small Jewish community under a State Department contract.

Gross was found guilty of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity" of the communist-ruled island, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

His case has heightened tensions between the two countries, with Washington making his release a condition for improved ties.

Cuba has indicated that it is ready to negotiate Gross's release in exchange for the release of five captured Cuban spies held in the United States. But Washington has ruled this out.