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Cuba releases US aid worker Alan Gross after five years

Alan Gross pictured in 2012 Credit: Reuters

Cuba has released American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in prison "on humanitarian grounds" at the request of the US, an official in Washington has said.

CNN reported a prisoner exchange that also included Cuba releasing a US intelligence source and the US releasing three Cuban intelligence agents.

Both President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will make a statement at 5pm today on the agreement.

Gross, 65, a US Agency for International Development subcontractor, was arrested in December 2009.

He was later convicted to 15 years in prison for importing banned technology and trying to establish clandestine internet service for Cuban Jews.


Putin visits Cuban ex-leader Castro during six-day tour

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun a six-day tour in Latin America, with a stop in Cuba, a key Soviet ally during the Cold War backs Moscow in its dispute with the West over Ukraine.

Cuba's former President Fidel Castro (R) talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) Credit: Reuters

Russian companies will participate in petroleum projects around Boca de Jaruco on the island's north coast, and that co-operation will extend to offshore oil deposits, Cuban government website Cubadebate (in Spanish) said.

Cuban state media carried photos in the evening of Mr Putin's meeting with retired leader Fidel Castro. Mr Putin and Raul Castro also participated in a ceremony at Havana's Memorial to the Soviet Internationalist Soldier.

Buena Vista Social Club tunes up for farewell tour

Its oldest stars died after a late burst of international fame, but the show will go on for just a little while longer as Cuba's trademark Buena Vista Social Club as the iconic band prepares to say "adios" with a final global tour.

Buena Vista Social Club pictured in 2002. Credit: Reuters

Some 15 years after the release of their first recording and their historic show at Carnegie Hall, vocalist Eliades Ochoa conceded the Grammy-winning band was due for retirement.

Many of the musicians were brought out of retirement and obscurity during a legendary recording session in March 1997 produced in Havana by American guitarist Ry Cooder.

The 'Adios' farewell tour kicks off in France in July before taking in countries such as Spain, South Africa and the United States.

Fidel Castro makes rare public appearance

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance at the opening of a Havana cultural centre sponsored by one of his favourite Cuban artists.

Fidel Castro has made a rare public appearance. Credit: RTV

State television broadcast images of the bearded, grey haired Cuban leader arriving at the cultural centre to the applause of local residents.

The reclusive 87-year-old was last seen in public in April 2013 at the inauguration of a school in Havana.

Castro lives in a villa on the outskirts of Havana where he regularly receives guests, but photos are rare and only occasionally do his writings appear in the local media.

It is the first public appearance Castro has made since April 2013. Credit: RTV

Castro governed the Caribbean island for 48 years before falling gravely ill in 2006 and handing power to his brother Raul Castro, who officially became president in 2008.


Final moments of Nyad's historic Cuba-Florida journey

Diana Nyad has become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage on her fifth attempt.

Well-wishers clap as Diana Nyad swims through the crowds at Smathers Beach in Key West. Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
Diana Nyad looks shaky as she makes it to the beach unaided. Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
Diana Nyad collapses into her friend's arms as she completes her 110-mile journey. Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity

Nyad tries to smile for the cameras after historic swim

Diana Nyad tries to smile for the cameras after her epic 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida. Credit: NBC News

US veteran long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad tried to smile for the cameras after completing her 110-mile journey from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

Diana Nyad was placed on a stretcher and took her to hospital. Credit: NBC News

Ms Nyad, whose face was swollen, was placed on a stretcher and hydrated with an intravenous drip before being taken to hospital by ambulance.

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