U.S. Senators are set to take up a resolution tonight condemning the continued detention of Alan Gross in Cuba. He's a government contractor from Maryland who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009. He has been charged with crimes against the state after he brought restricted communications equipment into the country while on a democracy building program. Alex Bolton, senior staff write at The Hill newspaper, explains the newest push by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to secure his release.
What are Sens. Mikulski and Cardin trying to do here?
"They've introduced a resolution with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) calling on Cuba to immediately release Alan Gross, who has been in jail for three years to the date. The resolution itself just calls on Cuba to take action. What's more significant is what they talked about at the press conference today, which is that they will stall action to liberalize relations with Cuba — agricultural sales to Cuba, travel to Cuba, and people from Cuba sending money back to people on the island. Those efforts will freeze until Cubans show some willingness to give ground on Gross."
"Specifically, what Gross' family wants is for him to be released, but at the very least, be able to visit his 90-year-old mother who will undergo chemotherapy for cancer, and to visit a doctor."
How is Sen. Moran related to all this?
"Moran was a key get for Cardin and Mikulski because he is Republican, so it shows that this resolution has bipartisan support. Number two: he has been very active going back to his career in the House in trying to liberalize relations with the island nation. The issue is important to Kansas, because Kansas farmers see Cuba as a key market. That's one of the driving forces behind the push towards normalization of relations with Cuba. So if somebody like Moran is getting involved, and drawing the line on Gross' detention, it's something that Cuba has to pay attention to, otherwise they're going to lose out on millions of dollars in sales in the midwest."
"I asked Moran today what his motivation was, and he said that because he's been so involved in normalizing relations, he has an interest in seeing that Cuba is acting as a responsible partner in the relationship it has with the United States."
How has this situation been affecting the relationship between the United States and Cuba?
"There's been a push in Congress for several years now to open up agricultural sales to Cuba, to make it easier for Americans to visit. Moran says he is going to stop his efforts on that until Cuba shows some action on Gross and releases him."