Judy Gross lobbies Congress for Alan’s freedom
Judy Gross, the wife of an American imprisoned in Cuba, was on Capitol Hill Sep. 19 to pressure the Obama administration to hold direct talks with Cuba in order to free her husband.
“He worked for the U.S. government, so they should do more to get him out,” she told CubaNews.
Alan Gross, 63, was a subcontractor for a U.S. Agency for International Development program aimed at destabilizing the Castro regime. He is serving a 15-year prison sentence for smuggling into Cuba sophisticated communications equipment that could help the island’s dissidents.
Judy Gross was accompanied on Capitol Hill by Jared Genser, the managing director of Perseus Strategies, a Washington-based company that bills itself as a lobbying, human rights and legal organization.
She and Gensler met with Sen. Jerry Moran in a Senate building hallway, asking the Republican from Kansas to support a letter to the State Department asking for direct talks with Havana over Alan Gross’ case. The letter would be delivered next week.
“If the U.S. government doesn’t directly talk to them, how are they going to get Alan out of prison?” Gensler asked.
Moran, who supported easing the embargo to allow Cuba to buy food from the United States, was sympathetic, saying “no American should be abandoned by their government.”
Judy Gross and Gensler are also frustrated by the official attitude in Havana.
Last week, Cuban Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal said in a statement that “Cuba reiterates its willingness to talk with the United States government to find a solution in the case of Mr. Gross and continues to await an answer.”
But Gensler said Cuba has made no offer to consider releasing the Potomac, Md., resident since it tendered an exchange for the “Cuban Five,” who were convicted and imprisoned in the United States for espionage. The Obama administration rejected that deal.
“What we really want is for the Cuban government to put an offer on the table,” Gensler said. “They’ve been asked and asked what else other than the Cuban Five and they’ve said nothing.”
While Judy Gross can count on Moran’s help, other lawmakers have turned her down, including two Cuban-American senators: Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Both men oppose all diplomatic talks between Washington and Havana.
Aides to Menendez and Rubio didn’t return calls seeking comment. Gensler said he isn’t concerned the two are withholding support because Havana considers them political enemies. “But, he said, “I would hope the Cuban government would care about people who have done a lot with Cuba like Sen. Moran.”
Judy Gross aims to win the support of at least 50 senators for her campaign.
She visited her husband, who is held in a military hospital, last week. Alan Gross, who was obese at the time of his December 2009 arrest, has lost 105 pounds and is suffering from degenerative arthritis.
He has also developed a mass behind his right shoulder blade. “I found him a human skeleton,” she said.
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