U.S. delegation seeks release of contractor in Cuba
February 19, 2013 -- Updated 1211 GMT (2011 HKT)
The U.S. government is applying new pressure on Cuba to release an American contractor, Alan Gross.
- U.S. congressional delegation arrives in Havana
- Alan Gross has been held since 2009; family says he has health problems
- Previous attempts to win Gross's release have been unsuccessful
Havana (CNN) -- The U.S. government is applying new pressure on Cuba to release an American contractor, who officials say suffers from chronic health problems.
One of the largest congressional delegations to the island in recent memory arrived in Havana on Monday with hopes of freeing Alan Gross.
Gross is serving a 15-year jail sentence for bringing banned satellite communications equipment into Cuba as part of a State Department program to spread democracy.
Gross, who has been held since 2009, said he was working to connect Cuba's small Jewish community to the Internet. But Cuban authorities said he had imported sensitive equipment to destabilize the government.
Cuban official talks about Alan Gross
2012: Who is Alan Gross?
Gross is battling chronic health problems, according to his lawyers, family and the State Department. The Cuban government has disputed reports that his health is compromised.
The U.S. delegation was led by Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was accompanied by fellow senators Sherrod Brown, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Debbie Stabenow, all Democrats, and Jeff Flake, a Republican. Democratic Reps Jim McGovern and Chris Van Hollen also made the trip.
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure than when we leave in a couple of days to have Alan on the plane with me," Leahy said.
Leahy traveled to Cuba last year with a similar delegation to press for Gross's release.
At that time, the group met with him in a military hospital where he is being held, and also met with Cuban president Raul Castro.
Cuban officials have not publicly commented on the arrival of the new delegation. But previously they have argued for the United States to lift a long-standing trade embargo, remove Cuba from a list of states that finance terrorism, and release five Cuban intelligence agents.
The State Department has rejected the notion of any prisoner swap and has said Havana cannot expect changes in U.S. policy until Gross is freed.
"We need a more mature policy toward Cuba," McGovern told reporters at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. "The wall that separates our nations needs to be torn down."
The delegation plans to travel to Haiti on Wednesday.
Cuba accuses U.S. of lying about jailed American's health
Part of complete coverage on
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
April 27, 1994: Nelson Mandela's crowning moment and the day South Africa held its first elections for citizens of every race.
He was imprisoned for life but that did not quiet him. Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president, and an icon and inspiration.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0319 GMT (1119 HKT)
His was a great sense of humor, with a dry wit and remarkable ability to render someone speechless with a well-placed one-liner.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Mohammed Jamjoon interviews the American performer who stunned the Arab world by singing in Arabic.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
He was loved and admired the world over, profiled in books and movies. Here are 10 surprising facts you probably didn't know about Mandela.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1532 GMT (2332 HKT)
"Sometimes it just takes one incident to galvanize a society," says CNN's Sumnima Udas.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Drones hover like a bee, flap like a bird and bounce like a ball. These awesome flying robots are taking unmanned flight in new directions.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
The mysterious "catacomb saints" were venerated by the Catholic Church and encrusted with gold and jewels -- before disappearing for centuries.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
The KAZA conservation area is working to make it easier to cross borders.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
He started his first business venture with capital of just $200 but today, he is one of Liberia's most prominent businessmen.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
North Korea is showing no signs of scaling back its fearsome labor camp system, says human rights group Amnesty International.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1051 GMT (1851 HKT)
Meet 24-year-old Marita Cheng: the talented technician bringing robots to your home.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0304 GMT (1104 HKT)
Japanese blogger Keisuke Jinushi started the "hitori date" (one-man date) blog two years ago.
Today's five most popular stories