WASHINGTON – The health of the jailed American contractor in Cuba is on the decline after more than two years in prison, his lawyer said.
Peter Kahn, a lawyer for Alan Gross, said he sent a letter Monday to Cuba's top diplomat in Washington requesting the test results. He said the Maryland man now has difficulty walking and has developed a mass behind his right shoulder blade.
Kahn said Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor who was working in Cuba when he was imprisoned in 2009, was told the test results would be provided so that American doctors could look at them. But he said that hasn't happened though other test results have been provided in the past.
"They still haven't shown up, and we're not getting a straight answer as to why, which causes us even more concern because maybe there is something serious going on here," Kahn said.
The Cuban government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gross, 63, was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the state after he brought restricted communications equipment to the communist island nation while on a democracy-building program.
Kahn did not release the letter he sent to Jorge Bolaños, Cuba's ambassador in Washington, but said he would wait for a response. He did provide a photo of Gross taken in May that shows he has lost a significant amount of weight.
I am afraid that he is slipping away, and the Cubans' refusal to provide his recent medical results only heightens my concerns. I am worried they might be concealing something.
- Judy Gross, Alan's wife
Gross' family has said the American had lost more than 100 pounds since being imprisoned in Cuba. But his health has worsened recently. Kahn said Gross used to walk in circles around his cell and do pull-ups but that he is no longer able to do so.
Cuban doctors told Gross he has emphysema, severe degenerative arthritis and a hematoma, a gathering of blood under the skin, on his shoulder.
His wife, Judy Gross, who now lives in Washington, D.C., has been sending over-the-counter drugs and a prescription cholesterol medication. But the medications are taking a long time to reach him, and she expressed worries about his health in an e-mailed statement.
"I am afraid that he is slipping away, and the Cubans' refusal to provide his recent medical results only heightens my concerns. I am worried they might be concealing something," she wrote.
Kahn said that Alan Gross is concerned about his health and also the health of his family, including his mother who has inoperable lung cancer. Kahn wrote directly to Cuban President Raúl Castro in March asking that Gross be allowed to travel to his mother's home in Texas for two weeks in April in order to be with her and celebrate her 90th birthday. Kahn promised Gross would return to Cuba, but he did not receive a reply.
In March, a judge in Miami allowed a Cuban intelligence agent on probation in the United States to fly to Cuba to visit his brother, who also has lung cancer. René González later returned to finish serving a three-year probation sentence. The ruling had raised hopes Cuba might reciprocate with a similar humanitarian gesture for Gross.
"He gave his word that he was going to return, and he was a man of his word and he did return. There's no reason why Alan shouldn't be trusted in the same context," Kahn said.