Today is the 5th anniversary of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross’s arrest for espionage in Cuba, and ABC news has learned exclusive details about the 65-year-old’s frail physical condition and his even worse mental situation.
Last spring it was reported that Gross had lost more than 100 pounds, but today sources who have visited with Gross in the last week told ABC News his health has vastly deteriorated. He has lost all but one of his front teeth, can barely walk because of hip damage, and is blind in one eye.
Gross is no longer accepting visits or food from the U.S. Interest Section in Havana and refuses medical or dental care from the Cuban military hospital where he is being held. Because of mobility issues stemming from his deteriorating health, he stays in his room at the military hospital 24 hours a day. He is kept in a 10 by 20 foot dorm room with 2 other prisoners who speak no English.
Gross has threatened to begin a hunger strike this month if he is not released soon and vows not to spend one more year in captivity—even if it means he dies of hunger.
In a statement released this morning to mark the anniversary Wednesday, Gross’s wife Judy says: “Enough is enough. My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his country and community.”
“Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end. After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done. It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now; otherwise it will be too late.”
Gross was sentenced to 15 years in 2011 for bringing telecommunication devices into Cuba while working as a subcontractor for USAID. The Cuban government accused him of being party to a U.S.-led plot to overthrow the government through an “Arab spring.”
White House sources tell ABC news the National Security Council and president are aware of Gross’s condition and are working on a solution.
In a statement released today, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said “we remain deeply concerned for Alan’s health, and reiterate our call for his release.”
“The Cuban Government’s release of Alan on humanitarian grounds would remove an impediment to more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba.”
Cuban officials tell ABC News they are equally concerned about Gross’ deteriorating health but that he has continued to refuse all medical care.
The Cuban government has long equated Gross’s arrest with those of five Cuban spies arrested in Miami for spying on anti-Castro groups and has proposed a “humanitarian release” involving prisoners of both sides.
By Jim Avila and SerenaA Marshall, ABC news
December 3, 2014