HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba said yesterday it refused to let former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson see jailed American Alan Gross during a recent visit to the island because it was irked at some of his actions.
The Cuban government said in a statement that Richardson had used “slanderous” language by referring to Gross as a hostage in remarks to the media and had attempted to pressure the government into letting him see Gross, which made it impossible for the visit to occur.
“Mr Richardson was reminded that Cuba is a sovereign country that does not accept blackmail, pressures or arrogance,” said the statement from Josefina Vidal, the Foreign Ministry’s director of North American affairs.
Gross, 62, is serving a 15-year sentence for bringing Internet communications illegally into Cuba under a secretive US program aimed at changing Cuba’s communist government. Cuba considers the program subversive.
The case has frozen US-Cuba relations that had warmed slightly before Gross’ arrest in Havana in December 2009.
The Sept 7 arrival of Richardson, who has served as US diplomatic troubleshooter in various cases and has had good relations with the Cubans, raised hopes he would negotiate Gross’ release. But Vidal said a release had not been discussed beforehand and was shot down immediately when he raised it.
Richardson told reporters on Tuesday he would leave yesterday without seeing Gross, which he said was perhaps a message from Cuba that it does not want improved relations with the United States.
Vidal’s statement appeared aimed at refuting that charge, but did not address it directly.
Richardson insisted he was invited by Cuba but Vidal said he came “on his initiative.”