US open to admitting some Cuban political prisoners

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The United States said Monday it is open to the idea of admitting some of the freed Cuban political prisoners who went to Spain, but has received no formal requests do so.

"Some that have made the trip from Cuba to Spain have inquired about coming to the United States," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. "We will evaluate those cases... on a case-by-case basis."

He added that while some have made inquiries, he was not aware that any had made a formal request to live in the United States.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke over the telephone on Saturday with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos about the freed dissidents, both sides said.

In a deal struck between the Roman Catholic Church and the government of Cuban President Raul Castro that was brokered by Spain, Cuba agreed to free 52 of 75 dissidents sentenced in 2003 to prison terms of up to 28 years.

Twenty dissidents arrived in Spain last month, and six this week in the latest batch whose release was announced by the church on August 13.

Havana agreed to free the dissidents within a period of four months after hunger striker Guillermo Farinas nearly starved to death in Cuba.

Meanwhile, Crowley said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has arrived in Cuba as part of a trade mission for his home state but also to discuss the case of an American contractor who has been detained there for nine months.

"We did have a conversation with him (Richardson) last week, brought him up to date on the status of the case of Alan Gross and asked if he would raise it during his discussions with Cuban officials this week," Crowley said.

Gross was arrested December 5, reportedly while distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications equipment.

Gross worked for an NGO contracted by the State Department to supply computer and communications material to civil society groups on the island, according to the United States which seeks his release.

Cuba insists however he is a spy who had sophisticated communications equipment for dissidents in the Americas' only one-party Communist regime.

Both the US government and the US company that employed the contractor, Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), denied the espionage charges.

© 2010 AFP

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