Cuba Accuses Bill Richardson of 'Blackmail' They say 'slander' doomed his attempt to free American prisoner By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Sep 15, 2011 9:18 AM CDT 4 comments Comments US former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson gives a press conference on September 9, 2011 at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. (Getty Images/AFP) (Newser) – Bill Richardson's attempt to free an American prisoner in Cuba has gone off the rails, with Cuban officials now accusing him of "blackmail" and saying he was never invited to the island in the first place. "The release of ... Alan Gross was never on the table," Cuban official Josefina Vidal tells the AP. Cuba wasn't happy Richardson told the press about his visit beforehand, and say they denied his request to even see Gross when Richardson described him as a "hostage." "His request to see the prisoner ... became impossible due to his slanderous statements," Vidal said. "We explained to Mr. Richardson that Cuba is a sovereign country which does not accept blackmail, pressure, or posturing." An aide to Richardson took exception to all that. "The Cubans are making flimsy excuses," he said. "They personally invited Gov. Richardson to discuss the Alan Gross detention."