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Alan Gross Marks Fifth Year In Cuban Prison

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The family of Alan Gross has marked his fifth year of imprisonment in Cuba.

Gross is Cuba's highest profile prisoner. He is held in a prison in Havana where news crews can't stop to photograph without risking arrest.

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Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access, which bypassed local restrictions and monitoring. At the time, Gross was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's U.S. Agency for International Development, which promotes democracy on the island. Cuba considers USAID's programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Gross' supporters say he was sent to Cuba by the U.S. government, and Washington should do everything in its power to get him back.

Gross's wife, Judy, released a statement on the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment.

"Enough is enough. My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his country and his community," she said. "It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now, otherwise it will be too late,"

White House spokesman Josh Ernest said, "We believe that Mr. Gross should be released on humanitarian grounds and that the case for that is clear."

There is also concern for Gross in Congress.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio also called on President Obama to take action.

"I urge the Obama Administration to step up its efforts against the Castro regime with the goal of securing Alan Gross' unconditional release," Rubio said in a statement.

Miami Congressman-elect Carlos Curbelo released a statement as well, saying, "President Obama should consider options to increase pressure on the Cuban regime until Mr. Gross is liberated."

But what can the U.S. do? Longtime Cuba observer retired Miami Herald reporter Juan Tamayo said increasing pressure on the Cuban government has not worked in the past, but Havana has indicated it is open to a prisoner trade.

"The condition Cuba has set for his release is very simple, the freedom of three Cuban spies being held in the United States," Tamayo said.

Tamayo added that the deal would be difficult because one of the spies was convicted of murder in the deaths of our Brothers to the Rescue pilots in 1996. One possible scenario, however, would be a deal to release multiple people held in Cuba along with Alan Gross in exchange for the three Cuban spies held in the U.S.

"It is theoretically possible that the US could exchange one, two or three Cuban spies and Cuba releases Alan Gross as humanitarian gesture," Tamayo said.

Cuba has suggested a swap. They will release Gross in exchange for the release of three Cuban spies who were arrested in Miami in 1998.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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