Amid developing reports on the U.S. government's involvement with what's being called a secret quote "Cuban Twitter," an American man named Alan Gross, who is detained in Cuba, started a hunger strike because of frustrations with both countries.
"That's what he's been doing now for five days. No food. Just drinking water, and according to his attorney, he has already lost 10 pounds, and that's on top of the 110 pounds he already lost." (Via Fox News)
The New York Times reports this statement from Gross on why began the strike: "I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal."
"Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working quietly to set up internet access for the island's small Jewish community. He was working at the time as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development." (Via WFOR)
As we reported in a story on April 3, that agency, USAID, is the one the Associated Press says organized the secret networking site for Cubans called ZunZuneo, with an alleged aim to spread information and dissent among Cuban youths.
The revelation of the network has resulted in hearings for the agency. But for now, the program has put Gross' life in more danger as he serves his 15-year sentence, according to his attorney. (Via WTVJ)
Now, to be clear, Gross was not arrested in relation to that "Cuban Twitter" scandal. Instead, he was arrested while working for USAID and accused by Cuban officials of being a spy.
The Washington Post obtained a statement from Gross' lawyer that reads: “Once Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his safety even further by running a covert operation in Cuba. ... USAID has made one absurdly bad decision after another."
Gross is asking again for President Obama to become involved in negotiating his release. His wife, Judy, explains how he has felt throughout the ordeal:
JUDY GROSS: "He feels like he's been abandoned. He was hired and working for a U.S. government project, and he has not heard anything from his government." (Via Newsmax.tv)
On The White House's behalf, Press Secretary Jay Carney has said that President Obama has been involved in the effort to get Gross released, and the State Department has discussed it often with Cuban officials. (Via The White House)
USA Today reports that at one time, the Cuban government was offering to release Gross in exchange for the release of a group of Cuban men nicknamed "the Cuban Five," who were arrested for spying. Two of those men have since been released. (Via CNN)
Judy Gross says she is worried her husband can't survive much longer in the conditions of the Cuban prison. It is not yet known if the Cuban prison will force-feed Gross, which is a common method to combat hunger strikes.