American Imprisoned in Cuba: ‘Life in Prison Is Not a Life Worth Living’

Alan Gross said goodbye to his family during their most recent visit to Havana.

Supporters rally on behalf of Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Cuba, in front of the White House in December 2013.
National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Kaveh Waddell
Aug. 4, 2014, 10:44 a.m.

After spend­ing more than four years in a Cuban pris­on, Alan Gross, an Amer­ic­an, told his at­tor­ney that “life in pris­on is not a life worth liv­ing.” He said good­bye to his wife and young­est daugh­ter, and asked the Cuban gov­ern­ment to re­turn his body to the U.S. if he should die in pris­on. His re­quest was denied.

Gross was ar­res­ted in 2009 in Havana, where had been work­ing to set up In­ter­net ac­cess for the Cuban Jew­ish com­munity us­ing satel­lite tech­no­logy that the Cuban gov­ern­ment would be un­able to track or con­trol. Gross had traveled to the is­land five times in 2009 as a part of a USAID pro­gram that sprouted from the 1996 Helms-Bur­ton Act, which al­loc­ated money to set up in­form­a­tion net­works out­side of the Cuban gov­ern­ment’s reach. Al­though Gross said he was not spe­cific­ally aid­ing dis­sid­ents, any work for the Helms-Bur­ton Act is con­sidered il­leg­al in Cuba, and Gross was charged with crimes against the state in 2011. He is serving a 15-year pris­on term.

Since Gross’s ar­rest in 2009, USAID has come un­der ad­di­tion­al fire for its op­er­a­tions in Cuba. After a so­cial net­work called Zun­Zun­eo, a Cuban ver­sion of Twit­ter, was ex­posed as a USAID-sponsored tool, law­makers chas­tised the agency for over­step­ping its mis­sion. “Does it taint all USAID em­ploy­ees as spies?” asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in an April hear­ing.

Well in­to his fourth year of im­pris­on­ment, Gross’s health is fail­ing. He’s lost much of the vis­ion in his right eye, his hips are fail­ing, and his “emo­tion­al de­teri­or­a­tion has been severe,” ac­cord­ing to his law­yer, Scott Gil­bert. “Both gov­ern­ments need to know that Alan plans to end his life in an ef­fort to end this agony,” Gil­bert said in June.

The Cuban gov­ern­ment has pre­vi­ously in­dic­ated that it would con­sider swap­ping Gross for three Cuban pris­on­ers that have been held in the U.S. since they were ar­res­ted in 1998. Two Cuban agents that were ar­res­ted along­side them were re­leased in June and are push­ing for the pris­on­er ex­change. The agents see a pre­ced­ent in the Amer­ic­an deal that swapped five Taliban de­tain­ees for Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl, who was be­ing held in Afgh­anistan, in May. “The only thing miss­ing is polit­ic­al will,” said Fernando Gonza­lez, one of the Cubans that was freed in June, after his re­lease.

A let­ter signed by 300 Amer­ic­an rab­bis urged Pres­id­ent Obama this week to “take ac­tion” to se­cure Gross’s re­turn. The U.S. has re­peatedly de­man­ded his re­lease, but re­jects the pris­on­er trans­fer Cuba pro­posed.

Be­fore Gross’s cap­ture or the Zun­Zun­eo scan­dal, when Obama had just be­gun his first term, the pres­id­ent called for a “new be­gin­ning with Cuba.” The White House main­tains that the dis­pute over Alan Gross is the biggest reas­on why there is no such fresh start in sight, but little time re­mains to over­come the obstacle. If no deal is struck and Gross passes away in a Havana jail cell, a new be­gin­ning seems even less likely than it did in 2009.

What We're Following See More »
WILL THEY MAKE THE INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE?
2,000 High-Risk Dams in Need of Repair
8 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

If President Trump gets his wish and Congress delivers him a $1 trillion infrastructure package to sign, engineers will be clamoring to get a number of dams a piece of that pie. "Nearly 2,000 state-regulated high-hazard dams in the United States were listed as being in need of repair in 2015, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. A dam is considered “high hazard” based on the potential for the loss of life as a result of failure. By 2020, 70 percent of the dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers."

Source:
PLEDGES OBAMACARE REPEAL
Pence: White House Is in the “Promise-Keeping Business”
8 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"Over at the White House, I like to say we're in the promise-keeping business these days." That was Vice President Pence's message to CPAC on Thursday night. Specifically, he pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare, and reform the immigration system.

Source:
HAD ATTRACTED A CROWD TODAY
Alt-Right Leader Spencer Removed from CPAC
15 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
SAYS LEFT WILL GO INTO “MELTDOWN”
Cruz Predicts Another SCOTUS Vacancy “This Summer”
19 hours ago
THE LATEST
THE QUESTION
How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
21 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login