Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– The White House has made a new plea for Alan Gross’ release but frosty relations between the U.S. and Cuba and an internal power struggle in the island nation means his freedom is far from certain.
Mike Hellgren spoke one-on-one with Alan Gross’ wife.
Judy Gross talked about her recent visit with her husband. She said he spends most of his time in an 8×8 cell, and he feels more and more like he may never get out of it.
“He looks defeated,” she said.
For Judy Gross, the past two years have been a nightmare. She says her husband Alan, who grew up in Baltimore, has become a political pawn in Cuba where the government claims he’s a spy. He’s lost 100 pounds since the Cubans locked him in a tiny cell on a 15-year sentence.
“I think there’s some people who wouldn’t recognize him,” she said. “Absolutely striking. Alan was a bit of a hefty guy to begin with, but always, always had a huge smile on his face. And now when you see him, he looks emaciated.”
His loved ones who fear he may die there began a new push for his release, including this video from his elderly mother.
“I can’t be without him any longer,” 89-year-old Evelyn Gross said.
“She’s a real trooper,” Judy Gross said of Evelyn Gross. “But she’s scared to death she might not see him again.”
Gross, a humanitarian, was working on a State Department contract to deliver communications equipment to the Jewish community in Cuba when police arrested him.
“It’s ludicrous. I mean, 15 years for bringing a cell phone,” said Judy Gross.
In an unusual move, more than 70 members of the Congress signed a letter urging the Cubans to free Alan Gross.
There are new reports President Raul Castro said that he understands the toll this is taking on Gross’ family, and the White House again called for his immediate release.
“It is past time for Mr. Gross to return home to his family where he belongs,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
But even with glimmers of good news, it’s difficult for the Gross’s to keep hope alive.
“I’ve never seen Alan quite so angry, quite so depressed,” Judy Gross said. “He’s really stuck between both countries, unfortunately.”
Judy Gross said Alan Gross’ anger is directed both at the U.S. and the Cuban governments. She said he’s very isolated but that he still loves the Cuban people.
Alan Gross is a graduate of Milford Mill High School and the University of Maryland.