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House letter presses Cuba on Alan Gross

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Forty members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter warning Cuba that improved relations are contingent on the release of a jailed Jewish American. 

Alan Gross, 60, has been held since Dec. 3; he was arrested while reportedly assisting the Cuban Jewish community to connect to the Internet. His congressman, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), initiated the letter.

"It is our understanding that at the time of his arrest, Mr. Gross was in Cuba to help the Jewish community improve their ability to communicate with Jews, both in Cuba and overseas," said the letter sent Tuesday.  "He was working pursuant to a U.S. government contract.  Mr. Gross’s work in Cuba emanated from his desire to make a positive impact for others of his faith on the island."

The Cuban government has banned such U.S. Agency for International Development projects.

"The arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Gross is viewed with great consternation by the government of the United States, including both Democrat and Republican Members of the United States Congress, whether liberal or conservative," the letter said.  "It has caused many to doubt your government’s expressed desire to improve relations with the United States.  We cannot assist in that regard while Mr. Gross is detained in a Cuban prison.  We urge you in the strongest possible terms to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Gross and allow him to return to his family in the United States."

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