Reporting Alex DeMetrick
WASHINGTON (WJZ) — New developments in the ongoing efforts to free a Maryland man from a Cuban prison.
Members of Congress returned after meeting with Alan Gross and Cuban President Raul Castro.
Alex DeMetrick reports there’s still no sign Gross will be released, making a desperate personal situation even more difficult.
Its relationship with the U.S. has left much of Cuba in something of a time warp.
In 2009, Marylander Alan Gross was hired to bring computer equipment there. It landed him a 15-year prison sentence for undermining the Cuban government.
“He’s very skinny, he’s lost a whole lot of weight. His mind is still very with it and he’s very energetic,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D) Maryland.
But that’s about all the good news Alan Gross’ congressman could bring home. Van Hollen traveled to Cuba with Senator Patrick Leahy in an effort to free Gross. They met with Cuban President Raul Castro. Their message:
“On behalf of the American people and his wife Judy, that we want to bring Alan home. That he’d been held unjustly for too long,” Van Hollen said.
But Castro wants a swap. Five Cubans held in the U.S. on spying charges for Gross. The U.S. won’t do it.
“The two situations are not comparable, both in terms of the reason they’re in jail or the circumstances of their cases. But that’s been the response from the Cuban government,” he said.
Van Hollen then revealed a new dynamic in the situation–a desperate one.
In his own appeal to the Cuban government, Alan Gross is asking to be set free in time to visit his ailing mother.
“She’s dying and at a point where she cannot travel to see him. And so this is a request to be able to see his mother before she dies,” said Van Hollen.
Alan Gross was in Cuba as an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Both the agency and U.S. government say Gross was doing nothing that was illegal.