There has been swift reaction following news of the release of American contractor Alan Gross after five years imprisonment in Cuba and the expected announcements on changes to hardline U.S. policy towards Cuba that the administration on Tuesday decreed had not been working.
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, one of two Cuban American U.S. senators, has been an outspoken opponent of the Castro government and has not advocated for lifting the economic embargo against Cuba, in place since 1960.
"This is a moment of profound relief for Alan Gross and his family. Mr. Gross' physical and mental health has declined severely as a result of his five-year imprisonment under difficult conditions. He should have been released immediately and unconditionally five years ago," said Menendez in a statement. "He committed no crime and was simply working to provide Internet access to Cuba's small Jewish community. His imprisonment was cruel and arbitrary, but consistent with the behavior of the Cuban regime."
Menendez blasted the news that the U.S. was releasing three members of the "Cuban 5" who had been imprisoned in the U.S. after conspiracy and spying convictions. Senior administration officials said on the condition of anonymity that the Cubans' release was in exchange for a swap for a U.S. intelligence asset whom they did not identify by name, but whom they said had been imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years and was responsible for important intelligence prosecutions, including of the Cuban 5 and Ana Belén Montes, a former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who had spied for Cuba. The administration said Gross' release was released on humanitarian grounds by Cuba.