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Would the US free the 'Cuban Five' in exchange for Alan Gross?

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, thehavananote.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

With the Obama administration and Congressional Republican leaders’ current stalemate over the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations as the appropriate backdrop, an American government subcontractor serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba hopes to force the most infamously stalemated parties of all – the United States and Cuba - to the negotiating table.

Three years ago, as he completed his 5th trip of the year to the island, Alan P. Gross was arrested and after a lengthy investigation, found guilty of crimes against the "sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Cuba. Gross was hired on a $600,000 subcontract (his employer was USAID grantee DAI) to set up several wireless internet networks around the island which could be hidden from the Cuban government using an "alternative SIM card" often used by US intelligence agencies. Three years and more than 100 pounds (lost during his incarceration) later, Gross wants the US and Cuba to sit down together and negotiate a non-belligerency pact.

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