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American held in Cuba appeals to Obama for help

Supporters rally on behalf of imprisioned US citizen Alan Gross, calling for US President Barack Obama to help free Gross, who has been in a Cuban prison for 4 years, during a rally in Lafayette Park on December 3, 2013, in Washington, DC
Supporters rally on behalf of imprisioned US citizen Alan Gross, calling for US President Barack Obama to help free Gross, who has been in a Cuban prison for 4 years, during a rally in Lafayette Park on December 3, 2013, in Washington, DC

A former US contractor jailed in Cuba says he feels his country has abandoned him and is appealing to President Barack Obama to intervene to bring him home, The Washington Post reported.

Alan Gross aired his views in a letter sent via the US mission in Cuba. The letter was to be delivered to Obama Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of Gross's arrest in Cuba.

The 64-year-old Maryland native was detained while distributing communications equipment to Jewish groups in Cuba under a contract with the US Agency for International Development.

He was convicted in 2011 of crimes against the Cuban state and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In the letter, Gross said his daughter and mother have been stricken by cancer and that his wife has had to sell their family home in Maryland.

"My business and career have been destroyed," the Post quoted Gross as saying in the letter.

Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington speaks on behalf of US citizen Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba for 4 years, during a rally in Lafayette Park, Washington, DC, December 3, 2013
Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington speaks on behalf of US citizen Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba for 4 years, during a rally in Lafayette Park, Washington, DC, December 3, 2013

Gross said that while the current American government and predecessors "have taken extraordinary steps to obtain the release of other US citizens imprisoned abroad" Obama has sent no special emissaries or agreed to negotiate his case.

The White House, however, said that Obama had been engaged in trying to free Gross, including raising his fate with foreign leaders.

"We reiterate today our call for the Cuban government to release Alan Gross," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

He added that the detention of Gross was "an impediment to more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba."

Carney said he did not know, however, if Obama had personally seen the letter.

The Post said Gross’s disappointment with the administration is shared by a growing number of US lawmakers.

It said they see him as one of the last victims of the Cold War and the long freeze in US-Cuba relations that has dragged on despite Obama’s early pledges to work toward better ties.

In a letter to Obama last month, a bipartisan group of 66 senators called Gross’s case “a matter of grave urgency” and urged the president to “act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain his release.”

Cuba on Tuesday said it was ready to negotiate on Gross' fate immediately.

In Havana, Josefina Vidal, the foreign ministry's top official for the United States, said the dialogue should be "on reciprocal bases that contemplate Cuba's humanitarian concerns with regard to the four" Cubans jailed for spying in the United States since 1998.

The United States and Cuba, still locked in their decades-old Cold War approach to their relationship, have not had full diplomatic relations since 1961.

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