Barack Obama Asks Uruguay To Help Free Alan Gross

President Asks for Help With Cuba

courtesy of gross family

By Reuters

Published June 20, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

President Barack Obama has sent an indirect message to Cuban President Raúl Castro through Uruguay’s leader, asking Cuba to release a jailed U.S. aid contractor and encouraging political reforms, U.S. officials said on Friday.

It was a rare presidential-level communication between the United States and Cuba, which lack diplomatic relations and have been hostile neighbors for more than 50 years.

Obama and Castro famously shook hands at the funeral for South African leader Nelson Mandela in December, exchanging pleasantries but without discussing matters of state.

Uruguayan President José Mujica, a leftist who has actively sought a role in helping improve U.S.-Cuban relations, visited the White House in May.

At that time, U.S. officials said, Obama asked Mujica to urge Castro to release Alan Gross, who has served four and a half years of a 15-year sentence for attempting to set up an illegal Internet service in Cuba.

The Gross case has impeded any major breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations.

“President Obama asked that President Mujica use any opportunity he might have to convey this same message to President Castro,” National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Friday.

“With respect to Cuba, President Obama urged President Mujica to use his considerable credibility as a regional leader to encourage political and economic reforms in Cuba, noting that such measures would be well received by the United States and other members of the international community,” Ventrell said.

The Uruguayan weekly Busqueda, which first reported on the communication on Thursday, said Mujica delivered a message from Obama to Castro last weekend, when Mujica and Castro attended the Group of 77 summit in Bolivia.

Gross, 65, was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Cuba considered the program subversive, and in 2011, a Cuban court sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Cuba has attempted to link his case to those of three Cuban agents serving prison terms in the United States for spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida. The United States has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for Gross.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.