Yellow Ribbon Project

Alan Gross' Wife to White House: If You Can Trade Taliban, You Can Help U.S. Citizen in Cuba


The wife of an American contractor imprisoned by Cuba for 1,667 days pleaded with the U.S. government to do something now to bring her husband home, stressing that she fears he’s on the verge of doing something desperate.

Alan Gross, 65, a USAID subcontractor imprisoned by Cuba since December 2009, has lost more than 110 pounds in custody and is allowed out of his his tiny cell for only one hour per day. His 92-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after Cuba arrested her son, and was refused requests for one last visit before she passed away last week.

Gross was extremely close to his mother and spoke to her by phone twice a day before his arrest. He had wrapped up work on a project to increase Internet access and connectivity at Cuban synagogues when he was seized the night before he was to return home. He spent 14 months behind bars before any charges were filed, then in March 2011 was quickly tried and convicted of “acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state” for distributing cell phones and other communications equipment as part of the USAID project.

Judy Gross visited Alan in prison this week, and emerged “extremely worried that Alan is going to do something drastic now that his mother is gone.”

“If we can trade five members of the Taliban to bring home one American soldier, surely we can figure out a path forward to bring home one American citizen from a Cuban prison,” she said.

“…My husband and I need President Obama to do everything in his power to end this nightmare and bring Alan home from Cuba now.”

Evelyn was laid to rest last Friday.

“We’ve urged the Cuban Government to grant Mr. Gross a humanitarian furlough so that he can travel to the United States and be with his family during this time of mourning, and we’ve made very clear that this is a strong priority for us,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week.

That request was refused by the Castro government, and Alan was denied the opportunity to go to the funeral.

“I am extremely worried that Alan is becoming more despondent every day. Both governments need to know that Alan plans to end his life in an effort to end this agony,” Scott Gilbert, the attorney representing Alan and Judy Gross, said in a statement.

The Gross family noted in May that Alan vowed his 65th birthday would be the last he spends behind bars.

“Our hope is that the United States government will recognize that no American deserves to be left behind, whether a soldier or a subcontractor like Alan, who was in Cuba on a US government mission,” Gilbert said.