Cuba Pours Cold Water on Gross Release Hopes

Claims Jewish Contractor in Good Health in 'Announcement'

courtesy of gross family

By Paul Berger

Published November 28, 2012.
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Cuba has poured cold water on hopes that Alan Gross will be released from a Cuban prison cell anytime soon.

In a statement released November 28 Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials insisted that Gross’s health — which has been a recent cause for growing concern according to his family — is normal. Gross, a Jewish American contractor jailed on spying charges, is 63.

A lawyer representing Gross, Jared Genser, recently reported Cuba to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture claiming that Gross was being given insufficient medical attention and that if it continued, it could constitute torture.

Gross’s health has deteriorated since he was jailed three years ago. He has lost more than 100 pounds. Cuban doctors now say that is because he was previously obese, the ministry statement said.

Gross has also developed a mass on his shoulder. His family say it could be cancerous and they would like an oncologist of their choosing to examine him.

But Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says its own doctors performed a biopsy on October 24 and they insist that the mass is not carcinogenic. “This test could not be performed before due to Mr. Gross’ refusal,” the statement said.

The ministry said it had provided details of its medical tests to U.S. diplomats in Cuba and to Gross’s wife Judy and to State Department officials in the U.S. on November 26.

“The Cuban medical team likewise ratified that the general health condition of Mr. Gross is normal and that he is receiving the treatment required by his diseases, including the chronic illnesses that are typical of his age, which he had been suffering from even before his detention,” the statement said.

It continued: “Mr. Gross maintains a systematic physical exercises regime on a voluntary basis and eats a balanced diet that includes foods of his choice, which has allowed him to get rid of his former obese condition.

“His body weight is normal. Mr. Gross keeps in touch with his wife and family by phone on a weekly basis and receives consular visits every month.”

The statement came after Cuba promised an important “announcement” about Gross. That alert came hours after a New York rabbi visited Gross at a military hospital in Havana and told the Associated Press that he appeared to be in relatively good health.

Rabbi Elie Abadie, who is also a gastroenterologist, told the AP that he met with Gross for 2-1/2 hours and also received a lengthy briefing from a team of Cuban physicians.

Abadie said a growth on Gross’s shoulder appeared to be non-cancerous and it does not pose a serious health risk.

“Alan Gross does not have any cancerous growth at this time, at least based on the studies I was shown and based on the examination, and I think he understands that also,” Abadie told the AP.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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