U.S. contractor Alan Gross marks 5 years jailed in Cuba, says he will die if not freed by May
U.S. contractor Alan Gross marks 5 years jailed in Cuba, says he will
die if not freed by May
Published December 03, 2014 Fox News Latino
HAVANA (AP) – Five years to the day after his arrest in Cuba on
espionage charges, former U.S. contractor Alan Gross is threatening a
hunger strike, refusing almost all visitors and predicting he will die
in prison if he isn’t freed by his 66th birthday in May, relatives and
backers said Wednesday.
It’s impossible to measure the gravity of Gross’ threat, but it’s clear
he is essential to any detente between Cuba and the United States. His
declarations have added to a sense that the next five months could be a
closing window for the Obama administration and Cuba to move to
normalize their relationship.
In his first term, Obama loosened restrictions on Cuban-American travel
and money remittances to Cuba, and he has advocated further changes in
his second. Now, with host Panama having invited President Raul Castro
to become the first Cuban leader to attend the Summit of the Americas,
an annual meeting of Western Hemisphere nations, many see the time
leading up to the April 10-11 meeting as a time for any U.S. action on Cuba.
The U.S. keeps Cuba under economic embargo and lists it as a state
sponsor of terrorism. U.S. prisons also still hold three of five Cuban
intelligence agents given long prison sentences after being convicted
for operations on American soil — a topic of constant, outraged
commentary in state-controlled Cuban media.
On Wednesday, the White House called on Cuba to release Gross, with
press secretary Josh Earnest saying in a press release that the U.S.
remains “deeply concerned” about the American’s health.
Earnest said Gross’ release “would remove an impediment to more
constructive relations” between the two countries.
Cuban officials have linked the fate of the agents to Gross, who was
detained in December 2009 while setting up illegal Internet access as a
subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“There seems to be a growing sense in this country that resolving both
situations would be constructive,” said Richard Klugh, a lawyer for two
of the jailed Cuban agents, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernandez.
“That is an atmospheric change that gives one hope that the political
will is there to follow through.”
As he recently did on immigration, Obama could move without
congressional approval to relax U.S. rules that require most Americans
wanting to visit Cuba to go on expensive, organized trips with
U.S.-approved agendas. Such a change could generate hundreds of millions
of dollars a year for Cuba’s centrally planned economy, which is
struggling for cash in the absence of major expansions in foreign
investment or private economic activity. Cuban authorities this week
sharply downgraded their prediction of 2014 growth to 1.3 percent,
nearly a point lower than expected at the beginning of the year.
Observers in both countries warn, however, that expectations of imminent
progress have come and gone before without real change to relations that
have been tense for more than five decades.
“We won’t make enough progress obviously until he’s home,” U.S. State
Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said of Gross on Tuesday. “His
continued incarceration represents a significant impediment to a more
constructive bilateral relationship.”
Gross’ wife, Judy, said in a written statement that the contractor has
lost more than 100 pounds, can barely walk due to chronic pain, and has
lost five teeth and much of the sight in his right eye. He has begun
refusing to see his wife and daughter, the new chief of the U.S.
Interests Section in Havana and members of Cuba’s small Jewish
community, who had been visiting him on religious holidays. Backers in
the U.S. said Gross has begun discussing a hunger strike, a tactic he
has used in the past.
“He hasn’t been seeing anyone for a while,” said David Prinstein, vice
president of the Havana-based Jewish community association. Prinstein
said he hoped Gross would accept a visit for Hannukah celebrations this
“We maintain our hope that he will see us and keep his Jewish faith
alive, and his faith that maybe this coming year he can return to his
country,” Prinstein said.
Source: U.S. contractor Alan Gross marks 5 years jailed in Cuba, says he
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