USAID subcontractor still in Cuba

Presidio Modelo on Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud. Alan Gross has just completed three of the 15 years he is supposed to spend in prison in Cuba. Photo by: Sebastiaan Terlouw / CC BY-NC-ND

Alan Gross has just completed three of the 15 years he is supposed to spend in prison in Cuba. But at 63, there seems to be no indication that he will go home anytime soon.

Gross was sentenced to prison in March 2011, although he has been detained since December 2009. He was working as a subcontractor for a U.S. Agency for International Development project in Cuba at the time of his arrest. Three years later, however, his wife tells journalist Ben Barber that he “feels like a soldier left in the field to die.”

Barber said he had also served on U.S.-funded projects abroad before. And on those occasions, he was certain the United States would stand by him and his colleagues in case of such incidents.

However, “failure to do so in the case of Gross sends a devastating signal to thousands of Americans working overseas on U.S.-funded assistance projects,” he writes in a blog post for The Huffington Post.

A day before the start of Gross’ fourth year in prison, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said in a press statement that “this is a humanitarian issue … The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs.”

A number of American politicians have met with Cuban President Raul Castro, including Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Richard Shelby of Alabama in February. Following the meeting, Leahy told The Associated Press, “We have a long way to go.”

Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders – emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

Join the Discussion