The wife of jailed American Alan Gross is hoping the pope's visit to Cuba will help get her husband back home.
Judy Gross told NBC 6 she feels her husband, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail, has been used as a bargaining chip in the complicated relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.
There have been numerous attempts to negotiate a deal to free Gross, including by Former President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Bill Nelson. Former Gov. Bill Richardson has twice traveled to Cuba on Gross' behalf.
“I was disappointed on that one because I thought they would be coming home together, so that was a big disappointment for me,” Gross’ wife said.
Gross went to Cuba on a humanitarian mission three years ago.
"He was a contractor for a USAID contract to help improve the internet and intranet access to the Jewish community there," his wife said. "Alan had been there three years ago on a mission and just fell in love with the community."
His wife also said that Gross did not intentionally cause harm.
“Alan went to Cuba not knowing that he was doing anything wrong, so a lot of people say, ‘Well, it’s Alan’s fault,’’ his wife said. “They let him through customs, he got receipts for his equipment, nobody informed him that he was breaking any kind of law. So maybe Alan is guilty of being naïve, but I am not even sure that you can go that far.”
Cuba has been steadfast in its denial of Gross’ release. They country didn't budge when Gross' daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My older daughter was so busy with the cancer, so she had to concentrate on herself,” said his wife. “My youngest daughter had a good relationship with Alan. They’d go fishing and hiking and she kind of avoids it because it hurts her.”
The family found hope when convicted Cuban spy Rene Gonzalez was given permission to go to Cuba to visit an ailing brother. Gross’ wife thought Cuba would respond by allowing her husband to visit his ailing mom, who is suffering from lung cancer.
“I have lung cancer in both lungs and it stands to reason I’m not going to be here for any length of time, so I want to see my son,” his mother, Evelyn Gross, said.
The world is watching, the stage is set and the ball is in Cuba’s hands.
“The timing is huge, and I feel it’s a vehicle that hopefully will let Alan get home,” said his wife. “We are urging that the pope will urge President Castro that and I think the pope can succeed in getting Alan released."
Gross was found guilty of bringing satellite and other communication equipment into the country illegally in March 2011.