Members of Congress have gone to Cuba in an attempt to free imprisoned American Jewish social worker Alan Gross, age 63.
Gross, contracted by a USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) agency to distribute communications equipment, was arrested in December 2009 on his way out of the country for “crimes against the state.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The project was aimed at helping the remaining 1,500 Jews in Cuba to remain connected with other Jewish communities around the globe via the Internet.
Major Jewish organizations and Jewish leaders in Cuba have all denied having any contact with Gross, or any knowledge of the program.
The accusations were linked to the contractor’s activities in connecting Cuban Jews to the Internet via the laptop computers he had distributed. Gross spoke no Spanish, and in the past had traveled to Cuba at least five times prior to his arrest.
Led by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), seven legislators who arrived Monday for a three-day visit in Havana met with Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Parliamentary President Ricardo Alarcon and Gross. There was also a possibility the delegation might meet with President Raul Castro, news media reported.
One year ago, Castro raised the issue of the “Cuban Five” during a meeting with Leahy in Cuba – a case that involves five Cuban agents who are currently serving long-term prison sentences in the United States – possibly in consideration of a “prisoner swap.”
Scheduled to leave Cuba sometime on Wednesday, the Congressional delegation was hoping to be able to take Gross home with them.