The visiting Americans, who met with Gross in his hospital
prison, also expressed hope those talks would cover other issues
such as the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba and the case of three
Cuban spies serving long prison terms in the United States.
Gross, 65, is serving a 15-year sentence over his 2009 arrest
and 2011 conviction for attempting to set up an Internet service
for Cuban Jews while working as a subcontractor for the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID). Cuba considered
his work a subversive program that used illegal, undercover and
Cuba has said it is willing to engage in negotiations about
Gross without preconditions, while U.S. officials have
disregarded the offer as an attempt to exchange Gross for the
three Cuban agents.
"It is time that both countries make a serious commitment to
engage in negotiations with no preconditions and we will
communicate that to the White House upon our return," Barbara
Lee, a Democrat from California, told reporters.
She was joined by three other Democrats from the House, Gregory
Meeks of California, Sam Farr of New York and Emanuel Cleaver of
Missouri, on a mission sponsored by the Center for Democracy in
the Americas, a group dedicated to changing U.S. policy toward
countries in the hemisphere.
All four representatives have long supported the normalization
of U.S. relations with Cuba.
The congressional delegation met with Gross at his hospital
prison and also with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on
Monday, and they were briefed by American officials before
departing the United States.
About a year ago, Cuba began offering to enter talks without
preconditions, according to Gross's lawyer, Scott Gilbert.
Cuba previously had more directly sought to link Gross's
incarceration to the cases of the so-called Cuban Five,
unregistered agents who were caught spying on Cuban exile groups
in Florida that opposed the communist government in Havana. Two
of the five have been released.
The United States has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for
Gross, and no formal talks have taken place.
(Editing by Ken Wills)
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