President Obama said the U.S. has been “in conversations” about trying to free Alan Gross, the 65-year-old government contractor who has been imprisoned in Cuba for more than five years.
“We’ve been in conversations about how we can get Alan Gross home for quite some time,” Obama told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos in a wide-ranging interview in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday.
When asked if those conversations included discussions with the Cuban government, Obama said they involved a “variety of channels.”
“We continue to be concerned about him. We think that he shouldn’t have been held in the first place,” Obama said, adding that he didn’t have “any announcements.”
“With respect to Cuba generally, I’ve made very clear that the policies that we have in making remittances easier for Cuban families, and making it easier for families to travel, have been helpful to people inside Cuba,” he said. “But the Cuban government still needs to make significant changes.”
Last Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of Gross’ arrest on charges of espionage. ABC News reported that Gross’ physical and mental conditions have deteriorated. He is no longer accepting food or visits from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and has declined medical and dental care in the Cuban military hospital where he’s being held.
His wife, Judy Gross, said in a statement last week that he has lost 100 pounds over the past five years, as well as five teeth and much of the sight in his right eye.
“Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end,” Judy Gross said. “After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done. It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now; otherwise it will be too late.”