Alan Gross on hunger strike in Cuban jail

American-Jewish contractor Alan Gross has launched a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment in a Cuban jail and the lack of American assistance.

“I began a fast on April 3 in protest of the treatment to which I am subjected by the governments of Cuba and the United States,” Gross said in a statement issued April 8.

“Once again, I am calling on President Obama to get personally involved in ending this standoff so that I can return home to my wife and daughters,” Gross said.

Gross, 64, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba. The Maryland resident is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”

Gross says he has lost 100 pounds and suffers from painful arthritis. He reportedly leaves his shared cell once a day for one hour.

The Cuban government has indicated that it wants the United States to allow the return to Cuba of five spies in prison or on probation in the United States in return for negotiations on Gross.

Secretary of State John Kerry said April 8 that he spoke to the Gross family a month ago to discuss the status of efforts to free Gross.

“We are very, very focused on trying to get Alan Gross out of there,” Kerry said while testifying before the Senate. “His treatment is inhumane.” — jta