Top lawmakers in dispute over money for Cuba

By the Associated Press | June 10, 2011 | 5:14 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private congressional dispute over democracy programs in Cuba has gone public, with a House committee chairwoman accusing her Senate counterpart of failing to understand what she calls "the brutal nature of the Havana tyranny."

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says Democratic Sen. John Kerry was wrong when he suggested that democracy programs led to the imprisonment of Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba. Ros-Lehtinen says she hopes Kerry, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, will reconsider his position.

Gross was working on a USAID-funded democracy-building program when he was arrested in December 2009. In March, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted of bringing communications equipment into Cuba illegally. His lawyer is appealing.