- On Air Program Guide
- A Blue View
- Brain Talk
- Cellar Notes
- Choral Arts Classics
- The Environment in Focus
- Gil Sandler’s Baltimore Stories
- Humanities Connection
- Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast
- Midday with Dan Rodricks
- The Morning Economic Report
- Radio Kitchen
- The Signal
- Take Five
- Your Maryland
- Public Commentary
- War of 1812 Stories
12-12-12: The Effort to Free Alan Gross
You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.
Potomac, Maryland native Alan Gross was arrested in December 2009, on his fifth trip to Cuba. He was working on a subcontract providing communications technology to the small Jewish population of Cuba.
Officials have rallied in support of Gross, including President Obama, and local Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who represents Maryland's 8th district, which the Gross family resided in, has also called for Gross' release.
Last week Senators Cardin and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced a resolution calling for the immediate release of Gross from detention in Cuba. The resolution passed, boosted by bi-partisian support from more than 25 Senators.
Gross' supporters have pleaded with the Cuban government to release Gross not just because they believe he was unjustly arrested and detained, but also because of concerns about his health.
Gross is reported to have lost more than 100 pounds in the past three years and has a questionable mass on his shoulder.
The health of his family is also a concern. Gross' 90-year-old mother will soon begin chemotherapy treatments, and one of his two daughters has also been diagnosed with cancer.
Congressman Van Hollen told Maryland Morning host Sheilah Kast that he has been in contact with his former constituent within the past few months.
"He called to give us an update on his situation," Van Hollen said. "His health situation is not good. The family has been asking that independent medical tests be done and the Cuban government has still not allowed that."
Alan Gross' wife, Judy, has been critical of the U.S. government and DAI, the company that Gross was working for under subcontract. Judy Gross has sued DAI and the U.S. Agency for International Development for $60 million. In an interview, Judy Gross told CBS News "The government, again, sent him there, and I'm footing the bill to try and get him home."
Judy Gross said that her husband has not recieved a paycheck from DAI since his arrest.
For DAI's part, officials released a statement in March 2011, after Gross received a 15 year prison sentence. The company's President and CEO said Gross was "doing nothing more than giving peaceful people access to the Internet."
But the Cuban government charges that Gross' activities were a violation of Cuba's laws. Cuba has very strict communication laws, and most forms of media are government owned and controlled. The CIA reports that Cuban citizens cannot access the Internet without special authorization.
Gross was convicted last year of "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state."
Dr. Julia Sweig, director for Latin American Studies at the Center on Foreign Relations, said that while supporters can defend Gross saying that Cuba's laws are not legitimate, they are laws nonetheless that carry repercussions if violated.
"The Cuban government has laws on its books that explicity prohibits the use of outsiders who are funded by foreign government from doing the very same thing [Gross was doing]," Sweig said.
Although Gross has received visits from a host of diplomats, including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, efforts to negotiate with the Cuban government for Gross' release have been unsuccessful.
Dr. Sweig said she hopes that the U.S. will be able to come up with a solution to get Gross released.
"If it isn't for the Cuban Five on the front end, well hopefully it will be because we have established a diplomatic framework and a process for these two countries to address the numerous issues outstanding," Dr. Sweig said.
Although U.S. politicians have recently suggested efforts to liberalize trade with Cuba may be stalled until Gross is released, Dr. Sweig said she's not sure that this may be what frees Gross.
"Those efforts have been stalled since 2010," Dr. Sweig said. "This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue. If you get inside of the mind of Havana, we've been asking them to unilaterally release him for three years and they haven't so I'm not so sure that making that demand is going to get us any farther."
To discuss the potential "Cold War politics" at play in Gross' case, Sheilah speaks with Congressman Van Hollen and Dr. Julia Sweig.