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Alan Gross to sit with Michelle Obama at State of the Union; Marco Rubio invites late Cuban activist's daughter

@PatriciaMazzei

Alan Gross, the American contractor held for five years in a Cuban prison, will attend Tuesday's State of the Union address as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama, the White House announced Monday. Gross was released last month as part of President Obama's move to normalize relations with Raúl Castro's government.

Gross won't be the only reminder about how U.S.-Cuba policy will be front and center at the annual speech. Sen. Marco Rubio has invited Rosa María Payá, daughter of activist Oswaldo Payá, who was killed in a suspicious car accident on the island.

Rubio's move is an attempt to highlight his opposition to Obama's rapprochement with Havana. The late Payá was "assassinated" by the Castro regime, Rubio said in a statement, echoing the dissident's family.

"In his remarks, I expect the president will bring up his new Cuba policy, especially since his administration is heading to Havana this week to discuss giving the regime legitimacy and greater access to American dollars it will use to fund its machine of repression –- the very machine that harassed Oswaldo Payá for years, eventually murdered him and pays hush money to potential key witnesses," Rubio said.

"While I disagree with the president's new Cuba policy, I hope Rosa María Payá’s presence on Tuesday night will at least remind him that her father's murderers have not been brought to justice, and that the U.S. is now, in fact, sitting at the table with them."

Separately, the first lady has also invited Nicole Hernandez Hammer, who used to help run the Climate Change Initiative at Florida Atlantic University. She is now a Jupiter-based climate-change consultant, according to her LinkedIn profile

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