Factbox: Jailed U.S. contractor, sour U.S.-Cuba relations

(BestGrowthStock) – American Alan Gross has been held in Cuba since December on suspicions of espionage, although he has not been officially charged with a crime. The U.S. government has said he was not a spy but was in Cuba setting up Internet systems for Jewish groups under a federally funded contract promoting political change on the island.

The following are facts about the case, which has stalled progress in U.S.-Cuba relations:

* Gross, 61, was detained by Cuban authorities at the Havana airport as he was preparing to fly home on December 3.

* He is said to have been in Cuba installing satellite equipment to provide Internet access for Cuban Jewish groups.

* He was working as a contractor for Maryland-based company DAI under a U.S. Agency for International Development program aimed at promoting democracy in Cuba.

* U.S.-Cuba relations had warmed slightly under President Barack Obama, but U.S. officials say there will be no major initiatives with its longtime ideological enemy as long as Gross is held.

* Cuba views the USAID program as part of the United States’ long-standing campaign to subvert the island’s communist-led government.

* Cuban officials have said Gross was suspected of espionage and providing illegal satellite communications equipment to dissidents, but the case is under investigation.

* Cuba’s Law 88 says that anyone who “participates in the distribution of financial, material or other resources that come from the United States government … faces a sanction of three to eight years in prison.”

* Gross is being held in a Havana military hospital, but his wife, Judy Gross, visited him in Cuba in late July.

* She has written a letter to President Raul Castro, expressing remorse for her husband’s work and asking for his release due to their daughter’s illness.

* New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson came to Cuba in late August to meet with Cuban officials about Gross, but left empty-handed.

* A U.S. State Department spokesman said on September 2 there was no truth to reports the United States may swap five jailed Cuban agents for Gross.

* Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela discussed the Gross case on September 24 on the sidelines of U.N. General Assembly in New York.

* Judy Gross said the U.S. government had done little to help her husband.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Factbox: Jailed U.S. contractor, sour U.S.-Cuba relations