Sen. John Kerry officially lifted his "hold" on a $20 million for U.S. programs to promote democracy in Cuba on Thursday after a day-long brouhaha over the funds and Havana's possible release of Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Cuba.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont still has a separate hold on part of the funds, but three Capitol Hill staffers said his concerns could be quickly resolved by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones, in an email to El Nuevo Herald Thursday afternoon, wrote that the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations “lifted the hold on the Cuba funds” after State and USAID officials agreed to a “thorough review of the programs.”
There was no explanation for the reports by Capitol Hill staffers throughout Thursday that the Massachusetts Democrat had lifted his hold Wednesday then put it back on, saying he wanted to wait because freeing the funds now might anger Cuba and delay its possible release of Gross.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey who favors releasing the money, at one point was considering blocking Senate action on all U.S. ambassadorial nominations until Kerry cancelled his block, the staffers added.
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