Contact Us
Make My Homepage

American Imprisoned in Cuba on Hunger Strike

An American who has been imprisoned in Cuba for more than four years after illegally setting up Internet access on the island is on a hunger strike, according to a statement his lawyer released Tuesday.

Jailed American Alan Gross poses for a photo during a visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and Berenthal at Finlay military hospital in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/James L. Berenthal, File)

Alan Gross, 64, said he was protesting his treatment by the governments of Cuba and the United States. He said he began fasting Thursday.

Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access for the island’s small Jewish community, access that bypassed local restrictions and monitoring. At the time, Gross was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government’s U.S. Agency for International Development, which promotes democracy on the island. Cuba considers USAID’s programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Cuban officials initially accused Gross of spying, though more recent statements have said he set up “illegal and covert communication systems” and was sentenced for breaking Cuban laws. His case has become a sticking point in improving ties between the two countries, which have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1961.

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal. Once again, I am calling on President Obama to get personally involved in ending this standoff so that I can return home to my wife and daughters,” Gross’ statement read.

The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gross’ hunger strike comes as U.S. and Cuban officials have questioned a different USAID program on the island. Last week, an Associated Press investigation revealed that USAID secretly created a “Cuban Twitter” communications network to stir unrest on the island. The social media network, called ZunZuneo, was publicly launched shortly after Gross was arrested. It reached at least 40,000 subscribers before being shut down in 2012 when a government grant ended.

Gross’ lawyer, Scott Gilbert, said his client was aware of the story, which was published the same day he began fasting. It was one of the factors he took into account in beginning his hunger strike, Gilbert said.

“Once Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his safety even further by running a covert operation in Cuba,” Gilbert wrote in a statement. “USAID has made one absurdly bad decision after another. Running this program is contrary to everything we have been told by high-level representatives of the Obama administration about USAID’s activities in Cuba.”

USAID’s top official, Rajiv Shah, testified Tuesday before a Senate subcommittee. Responding to questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who called the ZunZuneo program a “cockamamie idea,” Shah said it was “absolutely not” covert. Shah said creating platforms to improve communication in Cuba and elsewhere is a “core part” of what USAID does.

 

Rajiv Shah, who heads the U.S. Agency for International Development, says the U.S. has led an aggressive effort to free Gross.

 

Shah called Gross’ detention “wrong” but said “the responsibility for his detention rests with Cuban authorities.”

Gross’ brief statement did not say whether he was drinking anything while on a hunger strike or mention his health. Lawyers said Gross has lost over 100 pounds while incarcerated.

His wife, Judy Gross, wrote Tuesday that she was “worried sick” about her husband’s health and she doesn’t think “he can survive much more of this.”

Gross lived in Maryland before his arrest. His wife now lives in Washington.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://nj1015.com using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!