HAVANA — New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said Thursday "some progress" has been made in the case of a US contractor held in Cuba since December, after he relayed Washington's request to free him.
"After my intervention, there is some progress in the case... (but) I don't know how soon it'll be resolved," Richardson told a press conference after meeting with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Richardson was on a trade mission to Cuba when he brought up the detention of Alan Gross, 61, who was arrested on December 5 reportedly while distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications equipment in Cuba.
"The Obama administration asked me to take up the Alan Gross case at the highest level" in Cuba, Richardson said in Spanish. "I've done so and I hope there's some progress in the case."
US officials say that Gross worked for a non-government organization contracted by the State Department to supply computer and communications material to civil society groups in Cuba.
Cuba believes Gross is a spy. Rodriguez in June said Gross was being held for "committing grave offenses in our country at the service of the subversive policy of the government of the United States against Cuba."
Richardson said Rodriguez described Gross as being "in a very delicate situation, from a legal and an investigative standpoint."
In a separate interview with CNN, Richardson said he believed Gross was "an innocent person who was here on a mission and my objective is to try to get him out."
He said he would meet again later with Cuban officials on the Gross case.
"What I'm trying to do is to convince (Rodriguez) that this will be another good step forward. This is one individual who is very important to a lot of people in the United States."
Richardson said he was "sensing a better mood, a better atmosphere" between the United States and Cuba since Havana announced the release of some 52 dissidents from its prisons last month.
He told CNN the administration of US President Barack Obama "is considering relaxing travel restrictions" to Cuba for education, cultural or sports purposes.
The United States and Cuba have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1961, though Washington is represented by a US interest section in Havana.
Since he took office in January 2009, Obama has eased travel and remittance restrictions on Cuba imposed by his predecessor George W. Bush, and resumed migration talks and direct postal service with the island.
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