Alan Gross, the USAID contractor detained in Cuba in December 2009 for setting up Internet access in Jewish communities without permission from the Cuban government, has been released today as part of a prisoner swap between Cuba and the United States, the AP reports. “Officials said Gross was on a U.S. government plane bound for the U.S. Wednesday morning after being released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the Obama administration.”
President Obama is expected to confirm Gross’ release today, as well as the release of three Cuban prisoners held in the U.S. since 2001. The three men were members of the Cuban Five, intelligence officers sent to South Florida by then-President Fidel Castro. The prisoner exchange marks a stark improvement in relations between the two countries.
Gross, who was serving a 15-year prison sentence, had experienced a variety health issues in recent months. Several weeks ago his family said he had gone blind in one eye and was unable to walk.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.