Sunday, February 21, 2010

PHOTOS: Pennsylvania's 542nd Quartermaster Company Returns From Deployment

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By John Crosby, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs
A Soldier hugs a loved one at the Indianapolis International Airport as the Army Reserve's 542nd Quartermaster Company, headquartered out of DuBois, Pa., return from a year-long deployment to Iraq, Feb 13. (U.S. Army photo by John Crosby)
Soldiers of the Army Reserve's 542nd Quartermaster Company, headquartered out of DuBois, Pa., unload baggage from an airplane shortly after returning from a year-long deployment to Iraq, at the Indianapolis International Airport, Indianapolis, Ind. (U.S. Army photo by John Crosby)
Soldiers of the Army Reserve's 542nd Quartermaster Company, headquartered out of DuBois, Pa., are greeted with smiles and hugs at the Indianapolis International Airport Feb. 13 as they return from a year-long deployment to Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by John Crosby)
Troops exchange welcome-home handshakes and hugs at the Indianapolis International Airport as Soldiers of the Army Reserve's 542nd Quartermaster Company, headquartered out of DuBois, Pa., return home from a year-long deployment to Iraq, Feb 13. (U.S. Army photo by John Crosby)
Smiles and hugs are exchanged at the Indianapolis International Airport as Soldiers of the Army Reserve's 542nd Quartermaster Company, headquartered out of DuBois, Pa., return home from a year-long deployment to Iraq, Feb 13. (U.S. Army photo by John Crosby)S: News Blaze

U.S. troops treat Haiti earthquake victims with a dose of love along with medicine

Sunday, February 21st 2010, 4:00 AM
Haitian-born Army nurse Maj. Pascale Guirand of the 82nd Airborne Div. feeds antibiotic cocktail to sick quake orphan in Port-au-Prince tent slum.
Meeks/News
Haitian-born Army nurse Maj. Pascale Guirand of the 82nd Airborne Div. feeds antibiotic cocktail to sick quake orphan in Port-au-Prince tent slum.
Special Operations combat medic Army Staff Sgt. Mike (last name withheld for security) of Dallas, Tex., prepares impovised antibiotic cocktail for sick quake orphan.
Meeks/News
Special Operations combat medic Army Staff Sgt. Mike (last name withheld for security) of Dallas, Tex., prepares impovised antibiotic cocktail for sick quake orphan.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - She was a smiling little earthquake victim in braids and a pretty white dress, happily chirping, "Bonjour."
Minutes later, Army Maj. Pascale Guirand, a Haitian-born, Queens-raised nurse practitioner from an elite Army team, was working to save 2-year-old Gislaine's precious life.
Guirand's team was in the squalid, rain-drenched Marrassa homeless camp - shaggy hovels of bedsheets and tarps draped over twigs in a couple of swamped, garbage-choked fields near the capital's airport.
The U.S. soldiers were doing a medical and security assessment of conditions when I was greeted nearby by this impoverished princess, who stood barefoot in the mud with her brothers.
Then I heard her deep, phlegm-clogged cough. It stopped me cold.
As a dad with young daughters, I know a bad cough when I hear it. Back home, a trip to the doctor and some antibiotics cure it with little worry. But in Gislaine's dingy tent shanty, that kind of cough can kill as fast as an aftershock.
I grabbed a Special Operations civil affairs trooper from Manhattan's Washington Heights, Staff Sgt. Hansel, and asked him to radio medics.
Guirand, an 82nd Airborne Division nurse from Springfield Gardens, Queens, arrived with Special Operations combat medic Mike of Dallas and listened to Gislaine's chest, gently reassuring her not to fear the cluster of heavily armed G.I.s.
Mike and Hansel's last names are protected because their unit's missions outside of Haiti are classified.
"She has an upper respiratory infection, but not tuberculosis," Mike told me.
TB is a huge worry in these fetid camps because it's a deadly contagion spread by coughing. "I've got amoxicillin in my bag," Mike told the major. "We can mix up an improvised suspension."
It was a bold idea - one only a highly trained, combat-tempered special operator would cook up. "Do it," the nurse major ordered.
Mike squatted over his medic's bag in the mud, crushed the antibiotic tablets into powder and mixed them in a plastic bottle of spring water as a squad of paratroopers crowded around him to watch.
Guirand, whose easy smile could calm a hurricane, then fed her tiny patient the improvised, lifesaving cocktail.
It is impossible not to be overcome by emotion when confronted by the hardships of these survivors. The nurse who left Haiti 43 years ago for New York City - at about the same age as her pocket-sized patient - was no exception.
"Her daddy was killed in the quake," she said of little Gislaine.
"My parents left Haiti to give us a better life," Guirand said, pausing as a tear spilled down her cheek. "I don't know what made us so fortunate. How did we get out?"
The answer came like a squeak out of Gislaine's mouth. "Merci," she told her angel in camouflage.
Days later, Gislaine still had a slight cough, but her condition had drastically improved.
jmeek@nydailynews.com

Marines converge on Taliban holdouts in Marjah

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U.S. Marine Lt Scott Holub of Pasadena, MD and from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine AP – U.S. Marine Lt Scott Holub of Pasadena, MD and from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment runs carrying …
MARJAH, Afghanistan – Marines and Afghan units converged Sunday on a dangerous western quarter of the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, with NATO forces facing "determined resistance" as their assault on the southern town entered its second week. Fighter jets, drones and attack helicopters hovered overhead, as Marine and Afghan companies moved on a 2-square-mile (5.2-sq. kilometer) area of the town where more than 40 insurgents have apparently holed up. "They are squeezed," said Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, commander of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. "It looks like they want to stay and fight but they can always drop their weapons and slip away. That's the nature of this war." Insurgents are putting up a "determined resistance" in various parts of Marjah, though the overall offensive is "on track," NATO said Sunday, eight days after thousands of Afghan and international forces launched their largest joint operation since the Taliban regime's ouster in 2001. Late last week, Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, head of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, said he believed it would take at least 30 days to complete securing the Nad Ali district and Marjah in Helmand province, a hub for a lucrative opium trade that profits militants. The Marjah operation is a major test of a new NATO strategy that stresses protecting civilians over routing insurgents as quickly as possible. It's also the first major ground operation since President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan to curb the rise of the Taliban. Once the town is secure, NATO plans to rush in a civilian Afghan administration, restore public services and pour in aid to try to win the loyalty of the population and prevent the Taliban from returning. Twelve NATO troops and one Afghan soldier have died so far in the offensive. Senior Marine officers say intelligence reports suggest more than 120 insurgents have died. NATO said one service member died Sunday in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan, and two died Saturday — one by rocket or mortar fire in eastern Afghanistan and another in a bombing in the south. None of the fatalities was related to the Marjah area fighting. Their nationalities were not given. On Sunday, Marines used missiles to destroy a large, abandoned school compound that had been booby-trapped with explosives in Marjah. The school had been shut down two years earlier by the Taliban, residents told Marines. "They said they would kill the father of any child that went to school," said farmer Maman Jan, deploring that his six children were illiterate. Marines also found several abandoned Kalashnikov rifles along with ammunition hidden in homes. Sporadic volleys of insurgent machine-gun fire rang out through the day. "They shoot from right here in front of a house, they don't care that there are children around," said Abdel Rahim, a Kuchi nomad. On Sunday, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said that they had been more prepared for large numbers of planted bombs than for the sniper shooting and sustained firefights that have characterized the last few days of the Marjah operation. "We predicted it would take many days. But our prediction was that the insurgency would not resist that way," he said. Azimi said progress through the contested areas is slow so that troops can clear bombs and take care to prevent civilian casualties. He said the operation has always been planned to last a month and noted some aspects are ahead of schedule, including the deployment of Afghan police units to the town. On Saturday, President Hamid Karzai urged NATO to do more to protect civilians during combat operations to secure Marjah, although he noted the military alliance had made progress in doing that — mainly by reducing airstrikes and adopting more restrictive combat rules. NATO forces have repeatedly said they want to prevent civilian casualties, but acknowledged that it is not always possible. On Saturday, the alliance said its troops killed another civilian in the Marjah area, bringing the civilian death toll from the operation to at least 16. Karzai also reached out to Taliban fighters, urging them to renounce al-Qaida and join with the government. But the process of reconciliation and reintegration is likely to prove difficult. On Sunday, Mohammad Jan Rasool Yar, spokesman for Zabul province, said authorities arrested 14 police in the Shar-e Safa district on Saturday who had defected to the Taliban's side last week and were found on a bus heading to Pakistan. NATO said that two insurgents, including a suspected Taliban commander, were captured Friday in northern Helmand province. The men are believed to be involved in manufacturing roadside bombs. They, along with three others earlier in the week, had been caught as part of an operation to break up the Taliban's weapons supply line. _______ Associated Press Writer Amir Shah and Tini Tran in Kabul contributed to this report.

Alexander Haig 1924-2010

A true patriot and public servant, an anti-communist freedom-loving warrior passed away today. He had fidel's number, and understood the threat coming from Havana. He espoused a hard-line on dealing with Cuba, and supposedly once told President Reagan, "You just give me the word and I'll turn Cuba into a parking lot."
Haig's style and wit are revealed in excerpts from the Virtual Archive of a secret 1981 meeting held in Mexico City with Cuban Vice Premier Carlos Rodriguez:
Haig: You have every right to say what you want to, but we also have a right to draw our own conclusions from the events as we see them. We have proof, and we are telling you about it.
Unfortunately, the time has come, when the rhetorical debate between the United States and Cuba will not solve the problem, and, on the contrary, there is an array of areas in which the sovereignty of Cuba is not in the slightest bit implicated. However, Cuba is exporting revolution and bloodshed on the continent.
We know what you write, we know what you defend, we know what you are talking about, and we believe that it constitutes a threat to peace and stability, and we cannot see it in any other light, inasmuch as we are talking about objective reality.
You complained about the embargo. We have not had an effective embargo, but we can impose one on sugar, on the production of all the products which you use to obtain hard currency. However, we don't want to do that, we don't want to have any other complications. I must inform you of this. You speak of solidarity with the Sandinistas. I believe that you would render to them the greatest form of solidarity, if you would bring the Cubans home, and say to the Sandinistas that they should establish an order that does not violate the rights...
Rodriguez: Return doctors? Teachers? Return three thousand Cubans who...
Haig: We have a very good account of the doctors, teachers, Angolan veterans and military advisers, their titles, names and past activity.
Rodriguez: It would be interesting to take a look at it.
Haig: I can assure you that the benign picture that you have painted does not conform to reality. I'm not saying that you don't have a significant number of teachers there, but they are teaching your philosophy to Nicaraguan children, just as they tried to do in Chile. However, we do not agree that you have the right to do that. The Nicaraguans have the right to teach their people what they believe in. You are deeply involved in the Sandinista revolutionary movement, and we suggest that this creates a great risk for us all: for the Cubans, for the hemisphere, and for Nicaragua. We believe that Cuba should reexamine this. Nobody is asking Cuba to humiliate itself; we are not talking about that. We are talking about the conditions of ever increasing bloodshed in Central America.
We believe that the only solution for El Salvador is to allow the Salvadoran people themselves to decide their own fate, that is, by means of the electoral process, in which all sides should participate. A Legislative Assembly would be created, in which the political process would conform completely with the will of the people. But we cannot consent to Nicaragua's intervening in El Salvador under the mask of solidarity or any other revolutionary ruse, as it has been doing for quite some time. And your presence there, your assistance, facilitates this. Just as day follows night, this is the objective reality.
And in response to Rodriguez' denial of Cuba's involvement in Ethiopia, Haig displayed his usual wit:

"We have intercepted radio broadcasts in the Spanish language. I have read them every day. And if it wasn't you, then it was Ethiopians that speak Spanish remarkably well."
May he rest in peace.

S : babalú


February 20, 2010

Alarcón: No need to halt the dialogue

Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly, on Saturday (fot3) said that Havana will continue to maintain a dialogue with Washington despite the meeting held Friday between U.S. diplomats and members of the anti-Castro dissidence.
"I don't think [the dialogue] needs to be interrupted, unless in his penchant for change Mr. [Barack] Obama does the same as Mr. [George W.] Bush did before," Alarcón told reporters, as quoted by the French news agency AFP.
According to Alarcón, Friday's meeting was "a really revealing manifestation of how little the [Obama] administration has changed the American attitude to promote subversion and meddle in the internal affairs of Cuba."
"We are in favor of continuing the conversations [...] not only about [migration] but also about any topic, but only on the basis of respect," Alarcón said.
Posted by Renato Perez at 04:25 PM in Immigration, U.S.-Cuba relations
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Cuba objects to a gathering of dissidents at the residence of US Interests Section chief

After Friday's migration talks in Havana between representatives of Cuba and the United States, the head of the American delegation, Craig Kelly, met with a group of dissidents that included Martha Beatriz Roque, Vladimiro Roca, Félix Bonne, Oswaldo Payá and wives of several political prisoners.
The meeting triggered a statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry that said in part:
(fot2) "Contrary to the spirit of cooperation and understanding shown by the Cuban part, once the migration talks were held, the American delegation summoned dozens of its mercenaries, whom it even transported to the residence of the chief of the USINT [U.S. Interests Section], demonstrating anew that its priorities are related more to the support for the counter-revolution and the promotion of subversion to overthrow the Cuban Revolution than to creating a climate conducive to the real solution of the bilateral problems.
"These counter-revolutionary elements benefit from part of the more than 20 million dollars that do not remain in Miami, which the government of the U.S. budgets yearly for the task of destabilizing and subverting Cuba.
"From the very day he arrived in this country, the chief of the American delegation was cautioned by the Ministry of Foreign Relations about our rejection of his utilization of his brief stay to organize an act of provocation foreign to the spirit of the migration talks.
"With this offensive behavior toward the Cuban authorities and people, the American government confirms that the instruments of the subversive policy against Cuba remain in effect, makes manifest its lack of real willingness to improve ties with our country and to leave behind the actions of gross interference that historically have been the greatest obstacle to the normalization of relations between the two countries.
"The Ministry of Foreign Relations reiterates the disposition already expressed by the Cuban government to maintain a respectful dialogue about any topic with the government of the United States, as long as it be held between equals, without detriment to independence, sovereignty and self-determination."
The head of the USINT is Jonathan D. Farrar, in photo above. For more on this subject, in The Miami Herald, click here.
Posted by Renato Perez at 03:28 PM in Immigration, U.S.-Cuba relations
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S: Cuban Colada

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Cuban Five Must Suffer

I've been listening regularly to Ninoska Perez-Castellon (photo) on Radio Mambi for years now. And, I've noticed that she has an ongoing peculiar interest in the suffering of the Cuban Five.

Before some of the Cuban Five had their life sentences reduced, Ninoska Perez-Castellon would boast on her radio show about how well-deserved their life-sentences were. One could almost sense her satisfaction that these men would spend the rest of their lives in prison. According to Perez-Castellon, the Cuban Five were part of the larger Cuban government conspiracy to destroy the Cuban exile community, and were justly sentenced for their involvement in the shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue planes.

But, even their imprisonment was not enough. When the wives of the Cuban Five were denied visas to visit their husbands in federal prison, Perez-Castellon showed no sympathy saying that the denials were well deserved.

Yesterday, Ninoska Perez-Castellon's peculiar interest in the Cuban Five found its way to Louisville, Kentucky, where the paintings of one of the Cuban Five (Antonio Guerrero) are scheduled for an exhibition. The location of the exhibition is at a library on the campus of the University of Louisville, and sponsored partly by the Kentucky Interfaith Taskforce on Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Henry Wallace Brigade.

Perez-Castellon comments (as indicated from Friday's radio show) on the internet article from the Courier-Journal: "How pathetic that a university sponsors the so-called art work of a federal prisoner serving time for spying the United States." In the end, Perez-Castellon goes on to describe Antonio Guerrero as a "terrorist," which is clearly manipulative since Guerrero was not charged with such a crime, nor convicted of such actions.

Perez-Castellon, after expressing her indignation, shared on the radio the contact information to the President of the University of Louisville, James R. Ramsey. Radio listeners we're told to send a fax, if they wanted to.

Antonio Guerrero was originally sentenced to 10 years, plus life inside a Supermax prison in Colorado, but was re-sentenced last year producing the possibility of being released by 2016. Along the Malecon has examples of Guerrero's work posted, including information from a previous exhibition in Colorado Springs.

So, it seems that imprisonment until at least 2016 (Guerrero has already served about 11 years) is not enough according to Ninoska Perez-Castellon. Guerrero's right to "take part in cultural life" as described in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should be ignored. That is certainly strange for someone who regularly talks about defending human rights. Unless, of course, human rights apply only to some, while the others must suffer.

[More information on the Cuban Five]
[Cuba and Terrorism, research from the Center for International Policy]

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quotable

“I believe that these economic restrictions − an ‘embargo’ to some and a ‘blockade’ to others − represent a blunder in American policy toward Cuba. Far from suffocating the ruling class of the Island, these trade restrictions create material difficulties for the population and feed the radicalization of the ideological discourse inside Cuba. The embargo has been an argument to justify the unproductive and inefficient state-run economy, including the total ruin of various sectors. Worse than that, it has been used to support the maxim, ‘in a country under siege, dissent is treason,’ which contributes to the lack of freedoms for my fellow citizens.
“In its nearly 50 years, the ‘blockade’ has done nothing to limit the material arsenal of our authorities, not one of them has ceased to enjoy their privileges. An example is the issue of Internet access. They have always blamed the restrictions on Internet access on the fact that the United States has not allowed Cuba to connect to its underwater cable. The victims of these restrictions are ordinary Cubans; we have had to postpone our enjoyment of the World Wide Web, while the police, the censors and the official media seize the few kilobytes of access available to the whole country.
“When Barack Obama authorized American telecommunications companies to negotiate with their Cuban counterparts, this alibi for limiting the use of the Internet fell apart. Unfortunately, the government of Raul Castro has ignored his proposal and we continue to be the ‘Island of the Disconnected.’ But on this issue, at least, it is obvious to all that the responsibility does not rest entirely on external forces, but also on internal political will.
“…[W]e have to put aside the idea that relations between peoples are shaped in the halls of governments and the corridors of foreign ministries. Between the United States and Cuba there is a shared history, kinship and culture that do not depend on agreements between our respective administrations. For example, a linguistic detail illustrates the Island’s sympathy with our neighbors to the north; we never use the word ‘gringos’ with all its negative connotations, rather we use the word ‘yumas’ which is much more friendly.
“Our nation is no longer contained within a single territory; there are Cubans in every part of the world, and especially on the other side of the Florida Straits. As a result, our destiny is indissolubly tied to the United States. With due respect for our sovereignty, with more collaboration, more cultural exchanges, more citizen solidarity and fluidity of communications, both peoples would benefit. For this reason I support an immediate opening to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba, the end of the ‘blockade,’ the end of the damaging hostilities of the Cold War, and in particular the complete elimination of anything that limits contact between the citizens of both countries.”
– Yoani Sanchez, interviewed by fellow blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo; interview published at allvoices.com; h/t El Yuma

February 21, 2010

February 20, 2010

Zapata's suffering is uniting Cubans

Ayuno4
No one wants Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, on hunger strike in defense of his human rights since Dec. 3, to die.
And that includes his captors, who must be afraid of what might happen if Zapata succumbs to the effects of his protest.
Already, Cubans in disparate opposition groups have rallied around Zapata, holding prayer fasts and other events to show their support for Zapata. Web sites like Miscelaneas de Cuba, Payo Libre and journalist Ainí Martín Valero's blog are filled with such accounts. Cubans in exile are having similar success in spreading the word about Zapata's possible fate.
And already, the dictatorship has responded with force, which is only a sign of its fear.
Protest by suicide is not acceptable, even if a hunger strike is the only weapon Zapata had in his disposal to strike back against his torturers. His family, and the cause of Cuban liberty, need him to live.
But if he is martyred, his death will not be in vain. It will expose — again — the cruelty of the Castro dictatorship, and provide a further rallying cry for those fighting to depose it.

US urges Cuba to release 'spy suspect' Alan Gross

Alan Gross
Alan Gross has been held in prison since early December
American diplomats have called on Cuba to release a US citizen held since December without charge.
The release of Alan Gross, 60, was discussed during talks about migration in Havana, the US said.
Cuba's president has accused him of spying, but his family say he was distributing communication equipment to Jewish groups.
The issue has overshadowed the resumption of high-level talks between the Cold War adversaries.
Top diplomats from both countries held talks for about five hours in Havana, focusing on migration issues.
Afterwards the Cuban government said the meeting had taken place "in an atmosphere of respect", but made no mention of Mr Gross's case.
The US says he went to Cuba on a programme funded by the US Agency for International Development, and he had visited the country before on the same programme.
Easing tensions
Cuban President Raul Castro has said Mr Gross used "sophisticated" communications equipment to help opposition groups in their role as "mercenaries" for the US, AFP news agency reported.
Apart from the issue of the detention, the US State Department said that "engaging in these talks underscores our interest in pursuing constructive discussions with the government of Cuba to advance US interests on issues of mutual concern".
The US delegation was led by Craig Kelly, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs - the most senior US official to visit Cuba in many years.
The two sides used to hold regular, twice-yearly immigration talks, aimed at avoiding the mass exodus of Cubans.
But the Bush administration froze all contacts with Cuba.
Relations have eased under President Barack Obama with the resumption of direct negotiations on areas of mutual interest.
He has also lifted all restrictions on Cuban Americans visiting and sending money to relatives on the island.
S: BBC News

Cuba blasts U.S. meeting with dissidents

HAVANA
Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:19pm EST
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba angrily criticized U.S. officials on Saturday for meeting with government opponents following high-level talks on migration issues and said it showed the United States' real goal is to topple Cuba's communist government, not move toward better relations.
The meeting with "dozens of their mercenaries" took place despite warnings from Cuba that it would be viewed as an act of provocation and contrary to "the spirit of the migration conversations," the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"With this offensive conduct toward the Cuban authorities and people, the American government confirms that instruments of subversive policy against Cuba continue, and shows the lack of real will to improve ties with our country," the government said.
A senior State Department official confirmed that the meeting took place on Friday, but defended it as part of U.S. policy to promote human rights globally, not just in Cuba.
"President (Barack) Obama and Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton have made clear that our diplomacy not only in this region, but around the world is not only about connecting governments, but about connecting societies," the official told reporters. "So as part of our normal work we try to meet with various sectors of society."
The United States has long supported dissidents on the island, including about 200 who are locked in Cuban prisons.
The diplomatic tiff followed U.S.-Cuba talks on migration issues on Friday in Havana that both sides said took place in an "atmosphere of respect."
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Affairs Craig Kelly led the U.S. delegation to the migration talks, the second round of discussions since Obama took office with a pledge to seek a "new beginning" after five decades of hostility between the two countries separated by 90 miles of ocean.
The talks began in the 1990s after the United States and Cuba signed an accord aimed at preventing mass exoduses such the 1980 Mariel boatlift, but were canceled in 2004 by former President George W. Bush.
HEIGHTENED TENSIONS
In recent months Cuba has stepped up criticism of Obama for not making more changes in U.S. policy toward the island. Tension rose in December when Cuba detained U.S. contractor Alan Gross for alleged espionage activities.
The Obama administration has said Gross was in Cuba helping Jewish groups set up Internet connectivity, but acknowledged he entered the country on a tourist visa without declaring his true intentions.
The State Department official said the U.S. delegation told the Cubans several times at the talks that Gross should be released immediately because he was not a spy and for humanitarian reasons. The Cubans listened, but offered little indication of what they will do, he said.
Gross, 60, has not yet been charged with a crime, but remains in jail and could face a stiff prison sentence if he goes to trial and is convicted.
Obama has eased the 48-year-long U.S. trade embargo against Cuba by lifting restrictions on Cuban American travel to the island and has initiated talks on migration and possible resumption of bilateral postal service.
But he has said further progress depends on Cuba releasing political prisoners and improving human rights, both of which Cuba says are strictly internal matters.
"We're just going to take it step by step and see where that goes. We have certain principles that are important to us, and not just to us but we think to countries around the world, and so we will continue to talk about those principles," the official said.
At the same time, he said the United States would look for "overlapping" areas of interest with Cuba, such as migration, to work on together.
He said the U.S. and Cuba plan to meet again on migration and are discussing more talks on postal service, but no dates have been set for either.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)