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Maryland Man Imprisoned In Cuba Since 2009 Begins Hunger Strike

WASHINGTON (WJZ) -- Fireworks erupted on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon as a senator lashed out at the government for failing to secure the release of a Marylander imprisoned in Cuba. WJZ has covered Alan Gross' nightmare since he was taken into custody more than four years ago.

Mike Hellgren has more on the new Senate showdown.

This comes as Gross appears to be losing hope he'll ever make it out of Cuba alive. He's now on a hunger strike years after being convicted of spying on Cuba--an accusation he has steadfastly denied.

Alan Gross' body has changed dramatically. The aid worker from Maryland lost more than 100 pounds in the four years since the Cuban government threw him in prison.

Now, losing faith that he will ever be released, Gross started a hunger strike, saying, "I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions and inactions 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."

"As far as I can tell, USAID and the Obama administration has all but forgotten about him," said Senator Patrick Leahy.

An outraged Leahy denounced the government-funded program Gross was working for, a discreet operation to bring the Internet to Cuba's Jewish community.

"Solely because he was carrying out a USAID program which was dumb in its inception," Leahy said.

He is also incensed about another secret U.S. operation revealed in documents to create a Twitter-like network throughout Cuba, believing it put Gross in danger.

"If the Cuban government discovered it, did anybody consider what that might have meant for Alan Gross?" Leahy said.

"Alan's detention is wrong. The responsibility for his detention rests with Cuban authorities," said USAID administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah.

In an interview with CNN two years ago, Gross said he felt like a hostage. He's now calling on the president to get personally involved.

"I've worked all over the world. I've never been in any trouble. I can't remember the last time I got a speeding ticket and for this to happen to me at this age is incredible," Gross said.

Gross was raised in Baltimore. He has a wife, two daughters and an elderly mother suffering from lung cancer.

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