HAVANA (AP) — The wife of Alan Gross, a U.S. government development subcontractor serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba, said Wednesday she fears for his life even more after he received the demoralizing news of his mother's death from cancer.
Speaking in Havana a day after visiting her husband behind bars, Judy Gross said he was very close to his mother, talking to her by phone twice a day when he was in the United States and as often as he could after his incarceration in Cuba.
"He's talking about doing something drastic, and I think that's his depression and hopelessness talking," Judy Gross told The Associated Press. "I'm afraid that he really means it. The passing of his mother this week, I think, was sort of the last straw for him."
U.S. and Cuban officials did not have immediate comment. U.S. diplomats in Havana make monthly consular visits to the facility where Gross is being held, but generally refrain from speaking about his case, citing privacy rules.
Gross was arrested in 2009 while working to set up Internet networks for the island's Jewish community on a contract with the U.S. government's Agency for International Development. Washington argues that his activities were humanitarian, and he says he posed no threat to Cuba.
However, some aspects of his work violated Cuban law, and Gross' documents show he tried to avoid detection. Havana considers such USAID programs an affront to its sovereignty, and Gross was convicted under a statute governing crimes against the state.
Gross staged a hunger strike in April to protest his confinement and pressure Washington and Havana to resolve his case. He ended it after nine days at the request of his mother, Evelyn Gross, who died June 18 in Texas at age 92.
Gross had asked for leave to visit her, but was denied. His wife said he emailed her a short eulogy that was read at the funeral, which she was unable to attend because her own brother died the same week.
Gross has lost more than 100 pounds, is losing vision in his right eye and "both of his hips are failing," according to a statement issued Wednesday by the family's representatives.
Judy Gross said he seemed markedly worse than on any of her five previous trips to the island.