Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, Monday, December 3, will mark the third anniversary of the imprisonment of Alan Gross by Cuba as a political prisoner.
In 2009, Mr. Gross went to Cuba on a USAID contract to assist the Jewish community in improving access to the internet by installing wireless equipment. He was arrested by the Cuban government and held for 14 months before being charged as a spy. After a sham trial, Mr. Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Alan Gross a Maryland native, is a former social worker who spent a quarter of a decade working in international development--helping people around the world. A graduate of the University of Maryland, Mr. Gross has lived in Potomac, MD for many years. I've met his wife on numerous occasions and her continued strength and focus inspires me. While her husband has been held in a Cuban prison, she has held down the fort and held the pressure on the Cuban government for its poor treatment of her husband.
Despite facing severe health problems and complications caused by his imprisonment, Alan Gross has remained strong. He has developed a daily routine to maintain his strength. Yet he has lost more than 100 pounds, has difficulty walking, and has a large mass behind his shoulder that has gone untreated. The information shared by the Cuban government about Mr. Gross's medical condition is incomplete and raises new concerns for his family.
Mr. Gross's family has also encountered substantial health problems of their own over the past 3 years and they are facing significant financial hardship. His mother has inoperable lung cancer and the family is concerned they will not have a chance to be together to say goodbye. The family's contact with Mr. Gross remains extremely limited.
I have been hopeful that America and Cuba could move closer together--in trade, in community connections, and for the individual families that have been separated. Yet, concern over the detention of Alan Gross has put a hold on efforts to improve relations and the case shows that Cuba is not serious about moving forward and has stalled any effort in the Senate to move towards normalizing our relationship.
President Obama has stated that until Cuba's current government improves human rights and freedoms, the embargo against Cuba remains in our Nation's national interests. What had become a yearly effort to modify the embargo was halted in the Senate this year because of the continued detention of Alan Gross. The Cuban government needs to heed what it has heard from Senators and now hears from me: if you unjustly imprison our citizens, we cannot and will not improve the relationship between our countries.
In a recent letter to the Cuban government, I and several of my Senate colleagues called for the release of Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds. The government's response has called our request illegitimate. This is not the way to move forward. That is why I will join with Senators Cardin and Moran to submit a resolution that will apply additional pressure on Cuba to let Alan come home. I want to close by sending my continued thoughts and prayers to Mr. Gross, his wife Judy, and their family. I think of the challenges you are facing daily and I remain hopeful that you will all be reunited soon. Your strength and determination inspire me as you face difficult challenges.
I urge the government of Cuba to release Alan Gross immediately. I promise I will continue standing up for Alan and calling for his return home to Maryland.