Friends and family of a Maryland main jailed in Cuba hope the Pope’s visit there will help free him.
In December, Cuba pardoned 2,900 prisoners ahead of Pope Benedict the XVI’s visit. Alan Gross, 62, was not one of them.
Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to bring satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community.
Monday, Gross’s sister-in-law Gwen Zuares and other supporters protested outside the Cuban Interests Section to draw more attention to the man they say has deteriorated both emotionally and physically in a Cuban jail cell. Zuares said her brother-in-law has lost more than 100 pounds since his incarceration.
“I will be out here every week until we see Alan on U.S. soil,” she said.
The Jewish Community Relations Council and others are urging the Pope to ask Cuban President Raul Castro to release Gross.
The pontiff arrived in Santiago Monday and will be there for three days to celebrate the country’s patron saint.
The JCRC sent the Pope a petition with more than 4,500 signatures pleading for Gross’s freedom.
“It can still be done,” said the Rev. Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness, of Interfaith Council. “Day by day we never know what’s going to happen.”
Gross’s release is not out of the question, Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Josefina Vidal told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Monday.
“We have conveyed to the United States government our willingness to have a dialogue to look for a solution on this case on humanitarian reciprocal basis and we are waiting for a response,” Vidal said.
Gross’s family said that his mother has inoperable cancer and the woman’s last dying wish would be that her son would be able to come home for a few days to see her before she dies.