since Cuban leader Fidel Castro agreed to house Soviet ballistic missiles in 1961. Mr.Castro, 86, stepped down in 2008, and the top post is now held by his 82-year-old brother, who has allowed such incremental reforms as the easing of the ban on his citizens' travel. Raul Castro has said that he will step down when his five-year term ends in 2018. But Cuba remains on Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism, and sources close to the Obama administration told The Washington Times that ongoing frustration with Havana's detention of American Alan Gross is likely to prevent the kind of wide-scaleredefinition of policy some thought would come during Mr. Obama's presidency. Washington wants the release of Mr. Gross, a subcontractor who was arrested in 2009 while working for a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program. Cuban authorities accused him of illegally delivering satellite phones to individuals in the nation's Jewish community and gave him a 15-year prison sentence. His detention served only to amplify back-channel tensions with Havana. The Castro government has for its partlong complained about U.S. treatment of the "Cuban Five" — a group of Cuban intelligence officers convicted in Miami in 2001 of conspiracy to spy on U.S. military installations, Cuban exiles and anti-Castro politicians. 'Modest thaw' The recent move toward re-establishing direct mail with the U.S. and the upcoming talks on migration might seem insignificant within the context of such tensions. "These talks are not a major breakthrough," said Geoff Thale, a program director at the Washington Institute on Latin America. "But they are one more signal that there is at least a modest thaw in the relationship, a new willingness to talk." But even those modest stepshave been criticized by some U.S. lawmakers, most prominently Cuban-American Republicans who represent districts in Florida heavy with anti-Castro exiles.Postal talksLee and Haven, 13 (Matthew Lee and Paul Haven, 6/17/13, “Official: U.S., Cuba Plan To Resume Talks About Restarting Direct Mail Service”, )//EMWASHINGTON -- TheUnited States andCuba will resume talks this week on restarting direct mail service despite a deadlock between Washington and Havana over detainees that has largely stalled most rapprochement efforts, a U.S. official said Monday. U.S. and Cuban diplomats and postal representatives will meet in Washingtonon Tuesday and Wednesday for technical talks aimed at ending a 50-year suspension in direct mail between the United States and the
communist island. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the matter publicly before Congress is notified. Lawmakers were to be notified of the meetings starting Monday morning, the official said.