Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Health worsening of American held in Cuba

    Health worsening of American held in Cuba
    Posted: Nov 07, 2014 12:01 PM RST

    HAVANA (CNN) – Five years in a Cuban prison have taken their toll on
    Alan Gross.

    The U.S. government subcontractor has lost more than 100 pounds, is
    nearly blind in one eye and can hardly walk, according to his wife.

    His appearance now, Gross’ attorney tells CNN, is much worse than even
    the most recent photo released by Cuban authorities, taken last year.

    Judy Gross said when she saw her husband in June he told her he
    preferred death to serving the remaining 10 years of his sentence and
    has said goodbye to his family.

    “He says he is going to do something drastic and I worry about that
    because that’s how down he is right now,” Judy Gross said.

    Alan Gross came to Cuba in 2009 posing as a tourist. He was actually
    fulfilling a $600,000 contract to smuggle communications equipment into
    Cuba and set up surreptitious Internet hotspots as part of a program for
    the U.S. government’s Agency for International Development, which was
    trying to promote democracy in Cuba. Gross insists he didn’t know he was
    doing anything illegal.

    One of the Cubans he approached was Jose Manuel Collera, then the head
    of Cuba’s Freemasons, the centuries old organization that has long
    wielded influence on the island.

    What Gross didn’t know was that Collera was also a member of Cuba’s
    secret police and was tracking the American’s every move. He agreed to
    speak about the case at a Havana park. He says Gross was so unprepared
    for the assignment he didn’t even speak the language.

    “Alan Gross as a person was nice, very friendly,” Collera said. ”We had
    to communicate by making hand gestures because his Spanish was very

    Sentenced to 15 years in Cuban jail, Gross’ case has now become a major
    sticking point to improved Cuba-U.S. relU.S.ons. Havana won’t release
    him unless he’s swapped for three Cuban intelligence agents serving
    lengthy prison sentences in the U.S.

    U.S. officials said Gross isn’t a spy and should be returned
    immediately. Something Cuba is unlikely to do.

    Gross is being held at a military hospital. He is Cuba’s highest profile
    prisoner and is guarded by “the black berets,” Cuban special forces.

    Cuban and U.S. officials say that if a swap can be agreed upon, it
    likely needs to happen now in the final years of President Barack
    Obama’s second term when any political backlash to the deal would have
    less sting for a lame-duck president.

    Gross’ wife Judy says she was heartened by the U.S. government’s
    exchange of Taliban prisoners for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

    “My thought is if they can do that, if they can follow through with
    something that complicated, surely they can figure out something they
    can do to get Alan home,” Judy Gross said.

    But any deal with the Cuban government would have to overcome decades of
    Cold War-era mistrust and Alan Gross’ time may be running out.

    Source: Health worsening of American held in Cuba – KPLC 7 News, Lake
    Charles, Louisiana –