U.S. citizen held in Cuba worked with Jews


(JTA) — A U.S. contractor being held in Cuba helped the island nation’s Jewish community access the Internet and connect with world Jewry.

Cuba has accused Alan Gross, 60, an international development expert for the Bethesda-based Development Alternatives Inc., a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, of being a spy.

Though he has been in jail since Dec. 4, Gross’ identity was first revealed Wednesday in the Washington Post and The New York Times.

Gross was in Cuba as part of a U.S. government program, according to the Times. Unnamed American officials told the newspaper that Gross had entered on the wrong kind of visa, but assert he is not a spy.

Gross brought computer and satellite equipment to three Jewish nonprofit groups during several visits to Cuba, the Times reported. His December trip was meant as a follow-up to see how the organizations were making use of the equipment and know-how. 

Gross’ detention has increased fears that the Jewish groups with which he was working could face repercussions, according to the Washington Post.

It is illegal for Cuban citizens to cooperate with U.S.-sponsored democracy programs, the Post reported.

The U.S. government spends more than $45 million a year on undercover Cuba programs, according to the Times. 

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