Cardin, Mikulski call for release of Alan Gross from Cuban prison
By Ben Pershing,
The wife of Alan Gross and a trio of senators urged Cuba to release him Tuesday, three years after the Maryland man was arrested while working as a U.S. government contractor.
Gross, a Potomac resident, was detained in December 2009 for distributing computer equipment. He was working under contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and said he was trying to help Cuba’s small Jewish community gain Internet access. Cuba accused him of being part of a broader American effort to undermine the country’s government, and he received a 15-year prison sentence.
On Tuesday, the day after the third anniversary of his arrest, Judy Gross joined Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) in pushing for both the U.S. and Cuban governments to redouble their efforts to bring him home. Alan Gross has suffered from health problems in prison, and his supporters hope he might be released by Cuban President Raul Castro on humanitarian grounds.
“Mr. Castro, a message from the United States Senate,” Mikulski said, her voice raised. “Let Alan Gross go!”
Judy Gross had a message for a different world leader.
“President Obama: Now that the elections are over, I urge you to take up Alan’s case and make it a top priority,” she said, calling for “high-level talks” and an “open and honest dialogue” between the two nations.
“The U.S. government sent Alan to Cuba, and it is therefore the duty of the U.S. government to bring him home,” Gross added, saying her husband told her he believed he had been “dumped by my own government and left here to die.”
The State Department has repeatedly called on Cuba to release Alan Gross.
Moran, who has long pushed for an easing of trade restrictions between the two countries, said “it’s well past time Judy is reunited with her husband.” Moran said he had introduced a resolution, also backed by Cardin and Mikulski, calling for the “unconditional release” of Gross immediately. He said he expected the measure to pass the Senate this week.
Judy Gross said her husband is “frail. He has lost over 105 pounds. He suffers from chronic pain, and still does not know whether or not he has cancer.”
Cuban doctors have said they do not consider a mass on Gross’s back to be life-threatening, but Judy Gross reiterated that she wants him to be examined by an “independent doctor.” (The Associated Press reported last week that a New York rabbi who is also a physician had visited Gross in prison and found that he was in good health and “does not have any cancerous growth at this time.”)
Judy Gross also said that her husband’s 90-year-old mother would soon have to start regular chemotherapy in her own battle with cancer, and that both mother and son are very concerned that they won’t be able to see each other again.