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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Five years in a Cuban prison have taken their toll on Alan Gross. He’s lost more than one hundred pounds, and has ten years remaining on his sentence.

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His wife Judy Gross, who has traveled to Cuba to visit her husband, is worried he may take his own life.

“He says he is going to do something drastic,” Judy Gross said. “I worry about that, because that’s how down he is right now.”

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In 2009 Gross went to Cuba posing as a tourist. But that was a front for fulfilling a $600,000 contract to smuggle communications equipment into the island.

The plan was to set up internet hot spots as part of a U.S. government-funded program to promote democracy.

One of the Cubans he approached was Jose Manuel Collera, who turned out to be a member of Cuba’s secret police. Collera said Gross spoke very little Spanish.

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“Alan Gross as a person was very nice and friendly,” Collera said. “We had to communicate by making hand gestures because his Spanish was very limited.”

Gross is being held at a prison where news crews can’t even stop to take pictures without risking arrest.

Cuba has offered to swap him for three Cuban spies serving time in U.S. prisons. So far, the U.S. has shown no interest in the deal, but Judy Gross is heartened by the U.S. government’s exchange of Taliban prisoners for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“My thought is if they can do that, if they can follow through with something that complicated, surely they can figure out something they can do to get Alan home,” she said.

Any deal to bring Gross home would have to overcome decades of mistrust between Cuba and the U.S. as well as political consequences, and time may be running out.


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Eliott Rodriguez