Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

December 2012
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Waiting for help
Waiting for help

Posted on Tuesday, 12.18.12


Wife of imprisoned U.S. contractor in Cuba says she has renewed hope of

his release

Judy , whose husband has been detained in Cuba for three years,

said the United States should negotiate with Cuba to free him.

By Juan O. Tamayo

The wife of Alan Gross, the U.S. government subcontractor jailed in

Havana for the past three years, says she hopes that the reelection of

President Barack Obama will open the door to a White House effort to

free her husband.

"To be honest, I am losing some hope. After three years, it's only

natural," said Judy Gross. "But I guess I have some renewed hope, now

that the elections are over, that the White House can get involved in

getting Alan out of Cuba.

Gross' detention in Havana since Dec. 3, 2009 has become the key

roadblock in Obama administration hopes of improving relations with

Havana on issues such as migration, drug smuggling and possible maritime

oil spills.

But to Judy Gross her husband is a man unfairly imprisoned who should be

freed as soon as possible to rejoining his family in Potomac, Md., and

comfort his 90-year-old mother Evelyn, due to start a new round of

chemotherapy for cancer soon.

"Alan's mother says she doesn't care about her , that all she

cares about is seeing Alan again," Judy Gross said in a telephone

interview with El Nuevo Herald. "And I just want him home as soon as


Alan Gross, 63, was sentenced to 15 years in for delivering

satellite telephones to Cuban Jews, paid for by the U.S. Agency for

International Development under a pro-democracy program outlawed by

Havana as part of a bid to topple the communist system.

The phones allow access to the and people abroad but bypass the

government's closely monitored telephone monopoly. Cuba says delivering

them amounted to acts against its "independence or territorial integrity."

Judy Gross said her husband first went to the island with a group of

other Jews to learn about the tiny Jewish community and deliver

, and other humanitarian assistance.

"He just fell in love with the community because he's a humanitarian and

a real people person," she recalled. "So he wanted to go back and help

them. They were so isolated, they even needed food."

Gross said her husband now suffers from chronic pains and has a lump on

his shoulder that Havana authorities insist is not malignant, even

though a U.S. physician who has read some of the medical reports says

they do not rule out a cancer.

"We don't understand why Cuba doesn't allow in a third-party medical

person for an independent check, and that makes us suspicious that maybe

there is something wrong that they are hiding," she added.

During his three years detained in a Navy , the six-foot Alan

Gross dropped from almost 250 pounds to about 150 pounds, his wife said,

"and that's also frightening, because the Cubans say they give him three

meals a day and I know he's eating."

"He now weighs less than I do," she joked, adding that the couple speak

by telephone about once a week.

Judy Gross conceded that in the first months of her husband's detention

she did not publicly criticize the Cuban government, hoping to avoid

angering Havana and thereby perhaps prolonging Alan's time in prison.

But she has been steadily turning up the volume on her demands, now

often picketing outside the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington and

this fall hiring lawyer Jared Genser to push Alan's cause

on the international stage.

Today, she says she first blames "the Cuban government for arresting him

on trumped up charges, so he could be a pawn … His arrest was ridiculous

and his sentence absolutely uncalled for. They should have just thrown

him out of the country."

She also blames the USAID private contractor that hired Alan Gross to

deliver the satellite phones, Development Associates Inc., (DAI) for

failing to make him fully aware of the dangers he ran by going to Cuba

on behalf of the U.S. government.

And she blames USAID for allowing him to go to Cuba on a mission that

was clearly dangerous. She has filed lawsuits against DAI and the U.S.

government for $60 million.

"USAID knew that it was not safe," Judy Gross said. "Alan wanted to go

to help the people there. But he would not have gone had he known it was

this dangerous."

Some of Alan Gross's reports to his supervisors include references to

the risks he was running in Cuba.

Havana has made several thinly veiled offers to free Gross in exchange

for five Cuban spies convicted in a Miami trial in 1998. The Obama

administration has just as often rejected the swap offers, saying the

two cases are not at all similar.

One of the five is serving two life sentences on murder-conspiracy

charges for helping Cuban warplanes shoot down two civilian airplanes in

1996, killing all four Miami men aboard. Three others are still in

prison and the fifth completed his 13-year prison term last year and is

now serving a three- year parole somewhere in the United States.

Asked if she favors a swap, Judy Gross said she knows that the situation

with the Cuban spies is "complicated " but doesn't know much about what

the Cuban spies are alleged to have done or the exact legal charges

against them.

"I would favor anything that would get Alan home," she said, but added

that it is the U.S. government's duty to open negotiations with Cuba for

his release.

"To just say no, no negotiations, to me that's irresponsible. You sit

down and you negotiate," she insisted. "To say no, that makes us feel,

to be honest, that the U.S. government does not care that he's in a

prison in Cuba."

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