One way or another I’ll be back with my family in Maryland in less than a year, Alan Gross told his lawyer during a recent prison visit in Cuba.
Reuters is reporting that Gross told Scott Gilbert, his lawyer, that he’d return “dead or alive, and called on the Obama administration to do more to obtain his release.”
The Reuters report quoted Gilbert as saying “Alan is not doing well. Five years of confinement is taking a toll on him. He has lost some vision in his right eye. He is missing a tooth. He limps because of his hips. He has lost nearly 110 pounds.”
Gross is serving a 15-year term for illegally attempting to establish Internet service on the island. He ended a 9-day hunger strike earlier this month at the urging of his 91-year-old mother.
As per the Reuters report:
Gross was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In 2011 a Cuban court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for illegally providing Internet equipment and service under a U.S. program promoting political change that the Cuban government considers subversive.
The United States has repeatedly stated Gross was merely helping the Jewish community communicate internally and outside Cuba.
Gilbert, who met for two hours on Wednesday with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, said the official had reiterated Cuba’s “strong interest in sitting down with officials of the United States at the highest levels to resolve this issue with no preconditions.”
Cuba has blamed the United States for Gross’s incarceration and repeatedly offered to enter into talks that would also take up the cases of three Cuban agents serving long prison terms in the United States for spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida.
The United States has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for Gross, and no formal talks have taken place.
“To date the United States has not engaged with Cuba at all in respect to Alan Gross,” Gilbert said. “The United States has an obligation to do everything it can to bring him home.”
Gross launched his hunger strike on April 3 after The Associated Press reported that USAID established a secretive “Cuban Twitter” called ZunZuneo following his arrest.
Gilbert said the report had a “profound effect” on his client as “he believed it could well have endangered his life and well being” because it showed the United States continued to carry out programs similar to the one that resulted in his arrest.
[Photo is of an earlier visit by Gross’ wife Judy and his lawyer Scott Gilbert.]