Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    American in Cuban prison gives dire prediction as U.S. calls for his release

    American in Cuban prison gives dire prediction as U.S. calls for his release

    HAVANA — Five years to the day after his arrest in Cuba on espionage
    charges, former U.S. contractor Alan Gross is threatening a hunger
    strike, refusing almost all visitors and predicting he will die in
    prison if he isn’t freed by his 66th birthday in May, relatives and
    backers said Wednesday.

    It’s impossible to measure the gravity of Gross’ threat, but it’s clear
    he is essential to any detente between Cuba and the United States. His
    declarations have added to a sense that the next five months could be a
    closing window for the Obama administration and Cuba to move to
    normalize their relationship.

    CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reports that Gross’ wife, Judy,
    said she believes, “we are at the end.”

    “Enough is enough. My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his
    country and community. Alan is resolved that he will not endure another
    year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end,” Judy
    Gross said. “After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done.
    It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States
    now; otherwise it will be too late.”

    Alan Gross “plans to end his life,” says lawyer of American jailed in Cuba
    In his first term, Obama loosened restrictions on Cuban-American travel
    and money remittances to Cuba, and he has advocated further changes in
    his second. Now, with host Panama having invited President Raul Castro
    to become the first Cuban leader to attend the Summit of the Americas,
    an annual meeting of Western Hemisphere nations, many see the time
    leading up to the April 10-11 meeting as a time for any U.S. action on Cuba.

    The U.S. keeps Cuba under economic embargo and lists it as a state
    sponsor of terrorism. U.S. prisons also still hold three of five Cuban
    intelligence agents given long prison sentences after being convicted
    for operations on American soil – a topic of constant, outraged
    commentary in state-controlled Cuban media.

    On Wednesday, the White House called on Cuba to release Gross, with
    press secretary Josh Earnest saying in a press release that the U.S.
    remains “deeply concerned” about the American’s health.

    Earnest said Gross’ release “would remove an impediment to more
    constructive relations” between the two countries.

    Cuban officials have linked the fate of the agents to Gross, who was
    detained in December 2009 while setting up illegal Internet access as a
    subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    “There seems to be a growing sense in this country that resolving both
    situations would be constructive,” said Richard Klugh, a lawyer for two
    of the jailed Cuban agents, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernandez.
    “That is an atmospheric change that gives one hope that the political
    will is there to follow through.”

    As he recently did on immigration, Obama could move without
    congressional approval to relax U.S. rules that require most Americans
    wanting to visit Cuba to go on expensive, organized trips with
    U.S.-approved agendas. Such a change could generate hundreds of millions
    of dollars a year for Cuba’s centrally planned economy, which is
    struggling for cash in the absence of major expansions in foreign
    investment or private economic activity. Cuban authorities this week
    sharply downgraded their prediction of 2014 growth to 1.3 percent,
    nearly a point lower than expected at the beginning of the year.

    Observers in both countries warn, however, that expectations of imminent
    progress have come and gone before without real change to relations that
    have been tense for more than five decades.

    “We won’t make enough progress obviously until he’s home,” U.S. State
    Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said of Gross on Tuesday. “His
    continued incarceration represents a significant impediment to a more
    constructive bilateral relationship.”

    Judy Gross said in a written statement that the contractor has lost more
    than 100 pounds, can barely walk due to chronic pain, and has lost five
    teeth and much of the sight in his right eye. He has begun refusing to
    see his wife and daughter, the new chief of the U.S. Interests Section
    in Havana and members of Cuba’s small Jewish community, who had been
    visiting him on religious holidays. Backers in the U.S. said Gross has
    begun discussing a hunger strike, a tactic he has used in the past.

    “He hasn’t been seeing anyone for a while,” said David Prinstein, vice
    president of the Havana-based Jewish community association. Prinstein
    said he hoped Gross would accept a visit for Hannukah celebrations this
    month.

    “We maintain our hope that he will see us and keep his Jewish faith
    alive, and his faith that maybe this coming year he can return to his
    country,” Prinstein said.

    Source: Alan Gross, American in Cuban prison, gives dire prediction as
    U.S. calls for his release – CBS News –
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/alan-gross-american-in-cuban-prison-gives-dire-prediction-as-u-s-calls-for-his-release/