Mark K. Matthews, Orlando Sentinel
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said for the first time Wednesday that he would consider a visit to Cuba — but only if the trip would help both island dissidents and a U.S. contractor who has been held in custody there since 2009. “If I were to go to Cuba, I would want to see [U.S. contractor] Alan Gross and do what I can to get him home,” Nelson said in a statement. “It would be on a humanitarian mission to visit with pro-democracy groups and opposition figures.” Nelson’s comments were sparked by a Wednesday meeting with two Cuban dissidents: Guillermo “Coco” Farinas and Elizardo Sanchez. Earlier this month, Nelson also met with Gross’ wife to help bring attention to his plight.
Cuba has sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison for what it described as subversive activities related to his distribution of satellite Internet equipment to Jewish groups on the island. The U.S. State Department repeatedly has called for his release, noting a few months ago that he has “lost more than 100 pounds” since his confinement.