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Freed Cuban prisoner Alan Gross supports Clinton for president

By Eric DuVall
Freed Cuban prisoner Alan Gross supports Clinton for president
Alan Gross receives applause as an honored guest during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last year. Gross said he's supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- Alan Gross, the American aid worker who was jailed in Cuba for five years, says he's voting for Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state under whom negotiations for his release languished.

Gross, speaking to Politico, said he agrees with much of what Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says but disagrees vehemently with Sanders' past praise for the Castro regime.

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Ironically, Sanders was one of the first American faces Gross saw when he was finally released. Sanders was one of three U.S. senators sent to Cuba to finalize negotiations, along with Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Gross was locked up in Cuba for five years after government officials accused him of espionage after he was caught handing out telecom and Internet gear to Havana's small Jewish community.

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Gross has been an outspoken critic of the Castro regime, though he has also supported President Barack Obama's opening ties with the island, saying the policy Obama and Clinton pursued in Cuba is ultimately the best for the people there.

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Asked about whether he's angry that negotiations for his release took so long under Clinton, Gross expressed some frustration, saying, "I was a little angry at Secretary Clinton, because she was secretary of state when this happened and [it] falls under her supervision."

As for Sanders, Gross said the democratic socialist senator still has something of a soft spot on Cuba.

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"I had the impression that Bernie didn't see that there was so much wrong with the country that he was visiting," Gross said.

Clinton has faced her own criticism over restarting diplomatic relations with Cuba. Gross was hardly the only American whose presence on the island was controversial.

The administration has faced stiff criticism over failing to secure the return of JoAnne Chesimard, the New Jersey woman who was convicted of killing a state trooper in 1973, only to escape prison and flee to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum.

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Chesimard's case has long been stuck in the craw of conservatives critical of the Castro brothers and leery of renewing ties with a nation harboring a convicted cop killer who they say belongs in a U.S. prison.

The State Department has said it is working with Cuba on securing her return.

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