Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Swap

No talk of US-Cuba prisoner swap: US senator
(AFP) – Oct 6, 2010

WASHINGTON — A top US senator just back from a five-day visit to Cuba to meet with officials there said he did not believe there was any chance of a prisoner swap between the United States and its communist neighbor.

Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd made the trip for talks with officials in Havana on how to improve relations between the former Cold War foes, his office said. The countries do not have full diplomatic ties.

Dodd, who also chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, has been a frequent vocal critic of the US trade embargo on Cuba.

In December, Cuba detained a US government contractor, Alan Gross, whom Havana accused of distributing communications materials to civil groups.

The United States, meanwhile, since 2001 has jailed five Cuban spies for Havana.

Though US media have speculated on the possibility of a swap, Dodd said it was not being discussed before he left for Cuba.

And he stressed that in his view, Gross' case was very different from that of the Cubans, who were spying on US military installations. He also said that he was not able to meet with Gross during the visit.

But in Havana, Cuban President Raul Castro urged his US counterpart, Barack Obama, to free the five Cuban spies. Cuba maintains the spies were protecting it from terrorism that could come from the United States, an argument that is not likely to be an easy sell in Washington.

Castro, 79, also slammed Washington for "arbitrarily" continuing to claim that Havana is a state sponsor of terrorism.

Obama "has failed to acknowledge the cooperation that he has received from Cuba" in fighting terrorism, Castro said, while individuals who have committed attacks on Cuban targets -- Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch -- are living quietly and without being punished, in Miami.

Dodd earlier this year announced he would not seek reelection, was a lead author of legislation to lift the effective ban on travel by US citizens to Cuba. The measure is stalled in the US Senate. Dodd is a Democrat who represents Connecticut.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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