Alan Gross, U.S. contractor held in Cuba, ends hunger strike

US CUBA

Scott Gilbert, attorney for U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba since December 2009. EFE/File
Scott Gilbert, attorney for U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba since December 2009. EFE/File

— Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor serving a 15year sentence in Cuba on subversion charges, has abandoned a hunger strike after eight days at the urging of family members, his attorney said Friday.

The 64yearold Maryland man began the fast on April 3 to protest "inhumane" treatment behind bars and to pressure Havana and Washington into making a serious effort "to resolve this shameful ordeal," in the words of a letter he sent his lawyer in Washington.

Gross abandoned the hunger strike at the behest of his 91yearold mother, according to a statement.

"There will be no cause for further intense protest when both governments show more concern for human beings and less malice and derision toward each other," he told attorney Scott Gilbert.

Gross traveled to Cuba on behalf of a Maryland company that won a contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, to expand Internet access and the flow of information on the Communistruled island.

Cuban authorities arrested him in December 2009 in possession of communications equipment.

Havana said he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion and in an August 2012 ruling, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15year jail sentence imposed on the American.

Gross began his fast a day after Washington acknowledged the existence of a USAID project to create a "Cuban Twitter."

USAID's 20102012 ZunZuneo initiative was conducted via a Spanish front company using banks in the Cayman Islands.

"Once Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his safety even further by running a covert operation in Cuba," attorney Gilbert said earlier this week.

"USAID has made one absurdly bad decision after another. Running this program is contrary to everything we have been told by highlevel representatives of the Obama administration about USAID's activities in Cuba," Gilbert said.

Gross has lost more than 49 kilos (110 pounds) since his arrest and is confined to a small cell with two other prisoners for 23 hours a day, his lawyer said.

Cuba has hinted that it would release Gross in exchange for the return of the three of the "Cuban Five" intelligence agents who remain jailed in the United States.

Washington has dismissed talk of a possible swap, demanding that Cuba release Gross unconditionally.

 
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