Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Alan Gross

Alan Gross insists he's no spy, just an aid worker who wanted to help Cuba's small Jewish community get wired. But the Cuban government says Gross brought illegal satellite communications equipment to the island — and that he did so as a contractor for a U.S. program funded by a law that seeks the overthrow of the communist regime. That got Gross, 62, of Maryland, arrested in December 2009 — and sentenced this year to 15 years in prison. Whether Gross is an innocent humanitarian or a U.S. agent, he's certainly become a symbol of how dangerously dysfunctional Washington-Havana relations remain. Gross' plight is widely considered Cuba's retaliation for the 2001 conviction of five Cuban agents arrested in Miami, who got U.S. prison sentences ranging from 15 years to life. Many hoped the two nations would find a reasonable way to resolve the Gross issue, perhaps a cold war-style spy swap involving the American and one of the "Cuban Five," René González, who was paroled in October but was ordered to serve three years' probation in the U.S. No deal has materialized. Gross, meanwhile, has reportedly lost 100 lbs (45 kg) behind bars.