Alan Gross, held in Cuba for four years, launches hunger strike
April 8th, 2014
10:09 AM ET

Alan Gross, held in Cuba for four years, launches hunger strike

By Kevin Liptak

Alan Gross, the former American subcontractor who's spent four years imprisoned in Cuba, launched a hunger strike last week in a bid to spur both the United States and Cuba to resolve his case.

Gross has called on President Barack Obama to become personally involved in securing his release from the small Cuban jail where he's been incarcerated since 2009. Gross' lawyer on Tuesday said the U.S. government had put a resolution to his case in jeopardy after secretly setting up a social media network designed to help Cubans communicate.

"I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal," Gross wrote in a statement distributed by his U.S.-based public relations firm.
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Report: U.S. created a Cuban Twitter to overthrow government
April 3rd, 2014
02:52 PM ET

Report: U.S. created a Cuban Twitter to overthrow government

By Jose Pagliery

The U.S. government secretly created a Twitter-like social media service to subvert Cuba's communist government, according to an investigative report by the Associated Press.

The AP says U.S. government officials developed an app called ZunZuneo - named after the chirping sound of a hummingbird - to cause social unrest.

U.S. efforts to undermine the Castro regime in Havana are nothing new. There was a poison cigar, an exploding seashell, lethal pills and a fungus-ridden diving suit. But cooking up a tech startup with - literally - revolutionary intentions? That's something else.

To get around Cuba's iron grip control on technology and outside influence via the Internet, ZunZuneo was a low-tech version of Twitter fed by cell phone text messages, the AP reported.

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Filed under: Cuba • Technology
Cuba halts consular services in the U.S.
February 14th, 2014
05:21 PM ET

Cuba halts consular services in the U.S.

By Elise Labott

 
Cuba halted consular services in the United States on Friday because the American bank it was working with is severing their relationship, the Cuban Interests Section said.

 
M&T Bank informed the Interests Section last year it was getting out of the business of providing banking services for diplomatic missions, but agreed to accept Cuban deposits through February 17.

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December 10th, 2013
08:02 AM ET

A brief but important handshake between Obama, Castro

By Jill Dougherty

Arriving on stage at FNB stadium in Johannesburg to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, President Barack Obama shook hands with dozens of other world leaders, pausing briefly to grasp the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro.

It was a moment of high symbolism. More than 50 years after the Cuban Revolution, the United States and Cuba still do not have diplomatic relations.

The President has eased some of the economic embargo and travel restrictions that the administration of President George W. Bush strongly enforced, but relations still are tense. Cuba continues to imprison an American citizen, Alan Gross, who was arrested in 2009 on charges of attempting to destabilize the Cuban government.

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American imprisoned in Cuba pleads for U.S. help
December 3rd, 2013
11:29 AM ET

American imprisoned in Cuba pleads for U.S. help

By Michael Pearson

Please, Mr. President, don't leave me behind.

That's the gist of former U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross' plea to President Barack Obama in a letter on the fourth anniversary of Gross' imprisonment in a small military prison cell in Cuba.

In the letter, Gross - convicted by a Cuban court of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state" - says he spends 23 hours a day in a small cell with two other inmates, is in poor health and is largely cut off from the outside world.

"With the utmost respect, Mr. President, I fear that my government - the very government I was serving when I began this nightmare - has abandoned me," wrote Gross, a former subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. "Officials in your administration have expressed sympathy and called for my unconditional release, and I very much appreciate that. But it has not brought me home."

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Filed under: Alan Gross • Barack Obama • Cuba
Panama asks U.S. for help with North Korean ship
Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli (L) is seen aboard of North Korean vessel Chong Chong Gang at Manzanillo harbour in Colon.
July 17th, 2013
04:41 PM ET

Panama asks U.S. for help with North Korean ship

By Barbara Starr

Panama has formally asked the United States for technical help to inspect Cuban weapons found on board a North Korean freighter it seized.

"The government of Panama has requested our assistance, and we intend to provide it," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said.

"Generally speaking, the types of technical assistance we could provide include things like identifying the material on board, as well as providing personnel who are familiar with these types of inspections," she said.
The Panamanians asked for imaging equipment and technicians to fully examine and determine what is on board, according to a U.S. official.

The official declined to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has publicly said he wants international inspectors to survey the ship's cargo.
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Panama finds weapons hidden in North Korean ship arriving from Cuba
July 16th, 2013
04:29 AM ET

Panama finds weapons hidden in North Korean ship arriving from Cuba

Panamanian authorities seized a North Korean-flagged vessel with an undeclared haul of weaponry in the Panamanian port of Manzanillo on Monday night, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said.

Panama's security minister, Jose Raul Mulino, told CNN the ship had arrived from Cuba.

Panamanian authorities had received intelligence the ship was carrying drugs, but a search Monday revealed military equipment hidden among a cargo of brown sugar.

It was not immediately clear what sort of military equipment was found.

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Filed under: Cuba • North Korea • weapons
June 25th, 2013
03:23 PM ET

Hunting for Edward Snowden

CNN's Phil Black chronicles the 30+ hour flight from Moscow to Havana in search of Edward Snowden.

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Filed under: Cuba • Edward Snowden • Russia
U.S., Cuba to discuss direct mail, but no policy changes
June 17th, 2013
08:43 PM ET

U.S., Cuba to discuss direct mail, but no policy changes

By Jill Dougherty

Direct mail between the United States and Cuba was suspended 50 years ago.

Now the two countries have agreed to hold talks on reestablishing that service, but U.S. officials caution the discussions "are technical in nature" and do not indicate any change in policy toward Cuba.

Representatives from the State Department and the U.S. Postal Service will meet with Cuban officials in Washington this week to discuss the matter.

"The reason we're doing this is because it's of course good for the Cuban people," she said. "This is something we feel is good for us, but it's not meant to be a signal of anything or indicate a change in policy," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
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Daughter of Cuban president to get visa to attend conference in U.S.
Mariela Castro is the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro.
April 29th, 2013
03:23 PM ET

Daughter of Cuban president to get visa to attend conference in U.S.

By Jill Dougherty

Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, will be granted a U.S. visa to attend a conference on lesbian and gay civil rights in Philadelphia in May, a U.S. official tells CNN.

Initially not expected to receive a visa, the official said the case was "looked at again" and "the restriction on her visa has been lifted, which will allow her to travel" to the event on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Mariela Castro is the director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education and the niece of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Although she is not gay, she has lobbied for gay rights in Cuba, including the right for same-sex couples to marry and for AIDS awareness.
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