(JTA) — American-Jewish contractor Alan Gross has launched a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment in a Cuban jail and the lack of American assistance.
“I began a fast on April 3rd in protest of the treatment to which I am subjected by the governments of Cuba and the United States,” Gross said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal. Once again, I am calling on President Obama to get personally involved in ending this stand-off so that I can return home to my wife and daughters,” Gross said.
He told his attorney that the trigger for his hunger strike was the news that broke last week about the “Cuban Twitter” effort — a clandestine bid by the U.S. government to undermine the Cuban government — that was launched shortly after his arrest.
Gross, 64, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba. The Maryland resident is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”
Gross says he has lost more than 100 pounds since his imprisonment and suffers from painful arthritis. He reportedly leaves his shared cell once a day for one hour.
In a letter sent last December, Gross asked Obama to personally help secure his release.
The Cuban government has indicated that it wants the United States to allow the return to Cuba of five spies in prison or on probation in the United States in return for negotiations on Gross.
Gross’ wife, Judy, said in a statement that she fears her husband will not be able to endure his confinement much longer.
“I’ve been begging our government for more than four years to bring Alan home,” Judy Gross said. “I’m worried sick about Alan’s health, and I don’t think he can survive much more of this.”
Kerry said Tuesday that he had spoken to the Gross family a month ago to discuss the status of efforts to free Gross.
“We are very very focused on trying to get Alan Gross out of there; his treatment is inhumane,” Kerry said while testifying before the U.S. Senate.