Havana — Cuba said on Wednesday that jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross is in “normal” health, despite his wife’s claims to the contrary, as it reiterated its willingness to talk with the U.S. government about resolving the case.
Gross, arrested in Havana in December 2009 for illegally bringing in Internet equipment and setting up wi-fi networks under a controversial U.S. program, is serving a 15-year sentence handed down in an April 2011 trial. The case halted a brief warming in relations between Washington and Havana.
Wife Judy Gross said in a statement on Tuesday she had just visited her husband and found him to be in deteriorating health.
“I am devastated by his appearance,” she said. “While his spirit remains strong, I fear he is not going to survive this terrible ordeal.” She said her husband, 63, has lost 105 pounds (48 kg), has degenerative arthritis and a “mass” behind his right shoulder blade.
On Wednesday, Cuba refuted her allegations.
“The state of health of Mr. Gross continues being normal and he regularly does intense physical exercises,” Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal said in a statement.
She said Judy Gross had visited her husband three times at the end of last week for which “the best conditions were created.”
Gross was working semi-covertly in Cuba under a U.S. program promoting political change on the island.
The U.S. government has said he was only setting up Internet connections for Cuba’s Jewish community, but Cuba viewed his actions as part of the United States’ longstanding campaign to topple the island’s communist system.