Vigil Planned For American Held in Cuba
Alan Gross not among 2,900 prisoners released by Cuban regime
Monday, Dec 26, 2011 | Updated 10:22 AM EST
Supporters of a Maryland man who is entering his third year of captivity
in Cuba are holding a vigil Monday in downtown Washington.
Alan Gross, 62, of Potomac, was arrested at the Havana airport in 2009
and was sentenced to 15 years in jail by a Cuban court for crimes
against the state. At the time of his arrest, Gross was working for a
Bethesda company called Development Alternatives, which recently won a
government contract to promote democracy in Cuba. Family and U.S.
officials said that Gross' job was to distribute computer and satellite
phone equipment to Cuba's small Jewish community. The Cuban government
claims that such programs, which are sponsored by the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), are aimed at undermining the
Communist government of Raul Castro.
The most recent vigil comes after Cuba announced Friday that it was
releasing 2,900 prisoners in advance of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI
early next year. A Foreign Ministry official confirmed to the Associated
Press that Gross was not among those who would be released.
U.S. officials have been lobbying for Gross' release on humanitarian
grounds, citing his deteriorating health and the cancer diagnoses that
his elderly mother and daughter have both received. American Jewish
leaders have also stepped up calls for Gross' release, which would have
coincided with the beginning of Hannukah.
Today's vigil begins at noon, and will be held at the Cuban Interests
Section at 2630 16th Street, Northwest.
Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington