WASHINGTON (JTA) — The family of Alan Gross said the State Department contractor jailed in Cuba has made his goodbyes.
“During a recent visit with his wife, Judy, and his daughter, Nina, Gross said he could not take life in prison much longer and said his goodbyes,” Emily Black, a spokeswoman for the family, said in a statement sent Monday to reporters. “In addition, Gross is refusing to see visitors from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, including the new chief of mission.”
The statement did not give a date for the recent visit by his wife and daughter.
Gross, jailed in 2009, is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state” for helping to provide Internet service for the island’s small Jewish community while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed alarm at the alert.
“His health has been deteriorating and he has reportedly lost vision in his right eye,” the umbrella body said in a statement. “The message he sent to his family, in which he bids them farewell, raises concern that he is giving up.”
Gross, 65, of Potomac, Md., has been increasingly depressed since his mother died in June, the statement said.
He had hoped for a humanitarian visit with her, as the U.S. government had allowed a convicted Cuban spy to attend the funeral of a relative on the island on condition that he return to serve out his parole, which he did.
Gross’ family has hinted that the Obama administration should more seriously engage with the Cuban government regarding its offer to exchange Gross for three Cuban spies in jail.
Meanwhile, 300 rabbis of all denominations wrote President Obama urging him to “secure the immediate release” of Gross.
“Alan went to Cuba on behalf of our government,” said the Aug. 1 letter. “His immediate release from prison in Cuba and return to the U.S. must be a priority for our nation. Indeed, we believe this is a moral imperative.”