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12/03/13 - CNN - American imprisoned in Cuba pleads for US help 

(CNN) -- Please, Mr. President, don't leave me behind.

That's the gist of former U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross' plea to President
Barack Obama in a letter on the fourth anniversary of Gross' imprisonment
in a small military prison cell in Cuba.

In the letter, Gross -- convicted by a Cuban court of "acts against the
independence or territorial integrity of the state" -- says he spends 23
hours a day in a small cell with two other inmates, is in poor health and
is largely cut off from the outside world.

"With the utmost respect, Mr. President, I fear that my government -- the
very government I was serving when I began this nightmare -- has abandoned
me," wrote Gross, a former subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for
International Development. "Officials in your administration have expressed
sympathy and called for my unconditional release, and I very much
appreciate that. But it has not brought me home."

Cuban authorities arrested Gross in 2009, holding him for more than a year
before formally accusing him of illegally distributing prohibited satellite
communications equipment to Cuban dissidents.

After a brief trial in 2011, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

According to the USAID, Gross was arrested while he was in the country to
work on a U.S. government-funded project to set up individual
satellite-based Internet connections in Cuba. His family has said he was
working to help Jewish groups set up web access.

Despite saying it plans to provide Cubans with Internet access, the
country's government restricts the ability of everyday citizens to access
the web.

The White House did not immediately comment on Gross' letter.

On Monday, the State Department released a statement calling Gross'
continued imprisonment "gravely disappointing."

"Mr. Gross is a 64-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional
with a long history of providing aid to underserved communities in more
than 50 countries," the State Department said. "We reiterate our call on
the Cuban government, echoing foreign leaders and even Cuba's allies, to
release Alan Gross immediately and unconditionally."

Gross' imprisonment has set back relations between Cuba and the United
States after a brief thaw following Obama's election.

Government officials have harshly criticized Cuba over Gross' detention.

Numerous U.S. representatives have tried to bargain for the former
contractor's release, including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and
former President Jimmy Carter, but to no avail.

In 2009, Cuban President Raul Castro said Gross' conviction was evidence
that the United States "has not renounced its goal of destroying the
revolution."

"The enemy is as active as always," he said.

Gross -- a longtime international development worker -- said he was
pleading for his release not only for his own benefit and that of his
family, but for all Americans working, living or traveling abroad.

"There are countless Americans all over the world, some serving in uniform,
others serving in diplomatic or civilian capacities, still others private
citizens studying or traveling abroad, and they must not harbor any doubt
that if they are taken captive in a foreign land, our government will move
heaven and earth to secure their freedom," Gross wrote.

Gross' family says that he has lost nearly 100 pounds, has developed
degenerative arthritis in his leg and has battled depression since his
arrest.

In his letter, Gross says he is allowed out of his cell for one hour a day,
which he spends in a "tiny enclosed courtyard."

"I don't sleep much, between my arthritis and the lights in my cell, which
are kept on 24 hours a day. With the exception of a few phone calls and
visits, I am completely isolated from the outside world," he wrote.

"I have lost almost everything in the last four years, most of all time
with my family -- my wife, Judy, and my daughters, Shira and Nina. I have
had to ask my daughters not to visit because I cannot bear them seeing me
like this, a shadow of my former self, surrounded by men with machine
guns," he said.


Original Source / Fuente Original:
http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/03/world/americas/cuba-alan-gross/


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