The wife of a U.S. contractor imprisoned in Cuba said her husband’s health is failing after he lost 105 pounds (48 kilograms) and pleaded with Cuban President Raul Castro for his release.
Alan Gross’s health continues to deteriorate, his wife Judy said in an e-mailed statement today, and she fears he may die in the Havana military hospital where he is being held. Gross, 63, was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Cuba when he was arrested Dec. 3, 2009 and charged with “actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” He has maintained his innocence while serving a 15-year sentence.
“I am devastated by his appearance,” Judy Gross said in a statement. “He has lost 105 pounds and developed degenerative arthritis and a mass behind his right shoulder blade.”
Gross’s detention has heightened tensions between Cuba and U.S., which has called for his immediate release and rejected charges that he was a spy for carrying telecommunications equipment to the island. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, failed to win Gross’s release in a visit to Cuba last year.
Calls to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington weren’t answered.
Gross’s legal team filed a petition to the UN on Aug. 7 requesting that he be released due to health concerns and to visit his dying mother in the U.S. Gross’s lawyer, Peter J. Kahn, also petitioned Castro in March to release his client for two weeks to visit his mother, saying that Gross would return to Cuba after spending what could be his mother’s last birthday. The request was denied.
According to Gross, he was contracted by Development Alternatives, Inc., as part of a contract with USAID, to establish wireless networks and Internet connections for non-dissident Cuban Jewish communities. Cuba state prosecutors accused him of performing a “subversive project aiming at bringing down the revolution” by disseminating distorted information about the government.
In March, a Miami judge allowed paroled Cuban spy Rene Gonzalez to return home from the U.S. to see his ailing brother for two weeks. Despite hopes that the decision would soften Cuba’s stance on Gross and allow him to return home, the communist government rejected those requests.