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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – U.S. government contractor Alan Gross shared his story for the first time since his release from a Cuban prison where he languished for five years.

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In an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes, Gross described, in detail, his time as a prisoner on the island and the surprising thing he told his captors when he was freed.

“They threatened to hang me. They threatened to pull out my finger nails. They said I’d never see the light of day. I had to do three things in order to survive – three things every day,” said Gross. “I thought about my family that survived the Holocaust. I exercised religiously every day and I found something every day to laugh at,” said Gross.

One year after being freed from a Cuban prison, Gross seemed upbeat in his interview with CBS Evening News Anchor Scott Pelley.

Gross was arrested on his fifth trip to the island, while setting up internet for the Jewish community there. He was working for U.S. AID on the project but despite the Cuban government labeling him as a spy, he insists he was just doing a job, to give Cubans internet access.

“The danger didn’t seem so dangerous because I came home and I still had a contract to fulfill,” said Gross.

Pelley said in response, “Look you keep saying you had a contract to fulfill. That’s not all that’s going on here.”

“No. That’s it, “replied Gross.

“You believed in the work, said Pelley.

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“I do believe that access to information is alright for everyone but I’ve never interfered or participated in any kind of political activity overseas,“ said Gross.

He lost 110 pounds and five teeth during his time in captivity.

He believed within the first two weeks, that the U.S. government would get him out of prison. It took five years.

Gross’s release, in exchange for five Cuban spies in U.S. prisons, was the crux of the deal to restore diplomatic relations between Washington, D.C. and Havana, Cuba.

Gross was jubilant when he was finally freed.

“What did you say to your captors on leaving,” asked Pelley.

“Hasta la vista baby,” replied Gross with a big smile on his face.

Though Gross insists he was not a spy, before his arrest, he sent a letter to his project managers saying that their mission was “playing with fire.” He had no idea at the time how right he really was.

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Click here to learn more about the 60 Minutes interview. Click here to read more about U.S.- Cuba Relations.