Alan Gross (c) with his wife Judy and lawyer Scott Gilbert. Photo taken in Nov. 2013.
Alan Gross (c) with his wife Judy and lawyer Scott Gilbert. Photo taken in Nov. 2013.

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES — The attorney of US agent Alan Gross, the USAID subcontractor serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for national security violations, said Tuesday that his client would continue his hunger strike “as long as necessary.”

Gross, 64, has already lost 10 pounds since April 3 when he went on a water-only diet to draw attention to his virtual abandonment by the Obama administration. The once hefty communications equipment installer had already lost 100 pounds during his first four+ years in jail, said his wife Judy.

While the fate of Gross remains uncertain, the government controlled Cuban media has thus far completely ignored the hunger strike, allowing the foreign press to do the reporting without comment.

One issue that could enter into the scenario relatively soon would be whether the Cubans would be willing to let Gross’s health deteriorate significantly or force feed him to avoid the possibility of serious complications or death

The US military force feeds its prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the other side of the island. The naval base is located on occupied Cuban territory.

Desperation came with revelations of the USAID Cuban Twitter scheme

The announcement of the fasting came on the same day that USAID director Rajiv Shah was questioned by a US Senate and House subcommittee on the secret Zunzuneo program to create a false Cuban Twitter network to improve communication between residents on the island and foment opposition against the government.

Gross, said his lawyer, confessed that Zunzuneo was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, after learning of the USAID program the previous week, noted Café Fuerte.

Attorney Scott Gilbert said that after Alan was arrested “it is striking that USAID would risk even more security by an undercover operation in Cuba.”

At the Congressional subcommittee hearing USAID chief Rajiv Shah justified the Zunzuneo program as “discreet but not covert” [in terms of US law].  He did not mention or seem concerned whether his program and agents had violated Cuban laws.

Meanwhile Gross and his family feel abandoned by the US government despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s assurance that the administration is “deeply involved in the case” in trying to get Alan released.

On her Facebook page Judy Gross posted yesterday:

“Secretary Kerry is now proposing to swap Jonathan Pollard in order for the Israeli peace negotiations to continue. More than likely freeing Palestinian prisoners will be part of deal as well. Alan Gross is not a spy, and was working for the US Government. He still rots in a jail cell in Cuba. Come on Secretary Kerry, are you still so worried about Menendez, Rubio and Ros-Lethinan that you can’t make a simple swap for the now Cuban 3 and Alan Gross? It’s OK with you to free killers with so much blood on their hands? The Cuban 3 don’t come close to the crimes of the Palestinians and never had a fair trial to begin with.”

While ignoring the hunger strike, the Cuban media has given ample coverage to the revelations of the Zunzuneo scheme to promote subversion on the island, including coverage of the congressional subcommittee hearing.

The following, courtesy of, are fragments of the exchange Tuesday between Senator Patrick Leahey and USAID director Rajiv Shah, where Shah said he was unaware who created the false Cuban twitter program implemented by his agency.

Who created ZunZuneo? USAID chief doesn’t know

Rajiv Shah, left, and Patrick J. Leahy.  Photos:
Rajiv Shah, left, and Patrick J. Leahy. Photos:

In a heated exchange with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy on Tuesday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said he didn’t know who came up with the idea for the ZunZuneo project in Cuba.

Leahy had pressed Shah. “Who’s idea was it?” he demanded during a budget hearing in Washington, D.C. Shah tried to avoid the question and referred to his talking points. Leahy cut him off repeatedly.

“It’s a simple question,” said the senator, raising his voice. Finally, Shah said, “I do not, specifically.”

Asked if ZunZuneo was a covert operation, Shah replied, “Absolutely not.”  He said the project was included in the agency’s congressional budget justification, which indicated USAID was pursuing programs to increase the free flow of information to Cuba using new digital methods.

Leahy said there was so much “bureaucratese” in the budget justification, it would be impossible for anyone to know that a program such as ZunZuneo existed.

Shah denied claims in an Associated Press investigation that claimed there was money set aside for a Pakistan program that diverted to Cuba instead. And he said there was no Spanish shell company involved, as the AP had reported.

He referred to the program as “discreet,” not covert. “We did not advertise that this was a U.S. program,” he said.

Leahy also pressed Shah to tell him what he has done to try to secure the release of American development worker Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba since December 2009.

“Have you done anything specifically, personally to get him home?”

Shah replied, “I have, sir.” He added, “We think about him all the time. I think about Alan every day.”

However, Shah said he could not talk publicly about what he’s done. He added that the State Department, not USAID, has primary responsibility for trying to free Gross.

33 thoughts on “Will Cuba and Obama Let Alan Gross Die?

  • Well, we got the answer today! He’s HOME!

  • All I know is that when you made the claim of hiding their actions I went to the site and found what I posted. I have no reason to think it wasn’t there all along.

    I didn’t say widely publicized is the definition of overt. I do say that what is widely publicized and known to local authorities – as is the case in Cuba – is far from covert. When referring to Cuba: yes, dissidents that receive aid – from any source – can go to jail. Even those that don’t go to jail and are accused of being “agents”. Cleared checks of dissidents have been posted by the regime. US diplomats are followed. All very in the open and far from covert.

    The program Alan Gross was working on was to improve the communication and information of the Jewish community. That tiny community is not known for being at the vanguard of the dissident movement. I don’t know any dissident that is Jewish. All your speculation on double agents and other “spooky” theories are pure speculation. People that worked with Alan Gross have been identified and spoke to Jewish visitors. The one fact that is beyond any speculation is that nobody else was charged or convicted even after the regime was aware of his activities for years. If he had been in touch with “subversives” that would have been noticed long ago. In the end Alan Gross only proven crime was that customs violation. Your claim that he is “guilty by association” with USAID is ludicrous. Anyone not involved in any illegal activity should not be sentenced even if he or she is associated with USAID. In your view a man handing out food sent by USAID would be liable for arrest as a “spy”. All you can produce are feeble excuses in an attempt to execuse that what is un-excusable: the 15 year sentence of Alan Gross for a customs violation. Alan Gross was clearly arrested to blackmail the US in to freeing the Cuban spies held in Florida.

    As to your question about the mobile phones: in the trial it was clear that – with the exception of the one chip in one piece of equipment – no other illegal was handed out. Furthermore: it was Alan Gross that had that piece of equipment and he might just have had that in a misguided attempt to have a sure way of communicating for himself. Stupid maybe, but no crime worth 15 years.
    ell phone
    An interesting analogy: a number of years ago, when phone with GPS capability were very rare, my wife and I and some friends went to Cuba. Three of us had a cellphone with GPS capabilities. At that time bringing in GPS devices was illegal in Cuba. We also carried USB sticks, computer parts and an old portable as gifts.
    At that time importing GPS devices to Cuba was illegal. Should the three of us have been jailed?

  • When I went on the site some months ago the information wasn’t there. I have supplied the evidence that they haven’t updated the map which points to it being a recent change. Without a time machine I can’t prove it.

    Your definition of overt as widely publicized is nonsense. It is well known that the CIA spies on Russian military installations, European leaders and tries to infiltrate jihadist groups. Everyone is well aware of this but it doesn’t make them overt actions. Dissidents who receive money from USAID are in danger of imprisonment, hence they can’t be funded except by covert means.

    Alan Gross was convicted of a custom violation WITH the intention of furthering the (illegal) USAID democratisation program. The intention is fundamental here. Taking a knife through customs is different if your intention is murder from if you just intend to cut your food. If he was an innocent tourist who had unwittingly taken an illegal item through customs then yes, you would expect confiscation, a fine and deportation.

    I’m not sure why no one else has been convicted as part of this operation. The Jewish community say they didn’t know of Alan Gross. Perhaps the people he handed out the equipment to were double-agents, perhaps they were unaware of the US program (like the users of the Cuban twitter) or perhaps they haven’t been found. They didn’t need to convict him of anything else. The customs violation and involvement in the USAID program was enough.

    You still haven’t explained why he didn’t just buy ordinary mobile phones if he was simply trying to get people connected.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *