Published time: December 17, 2014 14:24
Cuba has exchanged American citizen Alan Gross for three Cubans jailed in the United States. The prisoner swap is set to be the first step in a major overhaul of US-Cuba relations.
US officials said Gross was transported on a government plane Wednesday morning after being released on humanitarian grounds, which followed a request from the White House. Gross, who had been imprisoned for five years, was viewed as a stumbling block towards improving relations between Havana and Washington.
US President Barack Obama is scheduled make a statement 1700 GMT on Cuba, the White House said, where he is expected to announce a shift in its Cuban policy. Cuban President Raul Castro, in turn, is scheduled to address his nation at the same time.
According to US officials, Washington will begin talks on normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba and opening an embassy in the country, AP reports.
Gross was handed over for three Cubans who were part of the so-called ‘Cuban Five.’ The group was allegedly sent by former Cuban President Fidel Castro to carry out espionage in South Florida. The men, who were convicted by a court in Miami in 2001 on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents, are widely lauded back home.
The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba over 50 years ago due to the Castro's socialist reforms and increased cooperation with the Soviet Union.
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Source: RT News