News / USA

Mother of USAID Contractor Jailed in Cuba Dies

FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2012 file photo provided by James L. Berenthal, shows jailed American Alan Gross poses for a photo during a visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and U.S. lawyer James L. Berenthal at Finlay military hospital in Cuba.
FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2012 file photo provided by James L. Berenthal, shows jailed American Alan Gross poses for a photo during a visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and U.S. lawyer James L. Berenthal at Finlay military hospital in Cuba.
Reuters
The mother of a U.S. aid contractor serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba died on Wednesday, his lawyer's office said, further straining a case that has stood in the way of improving U.S.-Cuban relations.
 
U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Gross, 65, has spent the past four-and-a-half years in a Cuban jail, losing more than 100 pounds (46 kg) and becoming increasingly despondent over his conviction for illegally attempting to establish Internet service on the island.
 
The United States urged Cuba to release Gross temporarily so he could be with his family following his mother's death, but Cuba rejected the idea, saying neither Cuba nor the United States has a protocol permitting overseas visits for prisoners.
 
During an eight-day hunger strike in April, Gross vowed to return home this year, dead or alive.
 
“I am extremely worried that now Alan will give up all hope of ever coming home and do something drastic,” his wife, Judy Gross, said in a statement. “Surely, there must be something President Obama can do to secure Alan's immediate release.”
 
Gross ended his hunger strike at the urging of his mother,   Evelyn Gross, 92, who died in Plano, Texas, after a long battle with lung cancer, a statement from his lawyers said.
 
Although U.S.-Cuban relations have been overtly hostile for more than half a century, they have improved in recent years with both sides agreeing to cooperate on immigration, drug enforcement, oil spill cleanups and other issues. But the Gross case has prevented a more meaningful breakthrough.
 
Gross was arrested in 2009 for trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana as a USAID subcontractor.
 
In 2011, a Cuban court sentenced him to 15 years in prison  for illegally providing Internet equipment and service under a U.S. program promoting political change that the Cuban government considered subversive.
 
Cuba has blamed the United States for Gross' incarceration and repeatedly offered to enter talks without preconditions.  Cuba has also sought to link talks on Gross to the cases of three Cuban agents serving long prison terms in the United States for spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida.
 
The United States has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for Gross, and no formal talks have taken place.
 
The U.S. reiterated its call for Gross' release but also sought a furlough, or temporary release, “so that he can travel to the United States and be with his family during this time of mourning,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.
 
“We have made very clear that this is a strong priority for us,” Psaki said.
 
While expressing condolences to the Gross family, Cuba's top diplomat for U.S. matters, Josefina Vidal, said no such furlough program exists in either country.
 
She also noted that one of the Cuban agents was denied permission to visit his dying mother.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs