Former Maryland aid worker Alan Gross was imprisoned in Cuba for five years before he was released in December 2014.

Former Maryland aid worker Alan Gross was imprisoned in Cuba for five years before he was released in December 2014.

Gross, a subcontractor to the U.S. Agency for International Development, was held in a Cuban prison for trying to connect the island's small Jewish community to the Internet.

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On Saturday, Gross reacted to the death of Fidel Castro on Twitter, where he wrote, "History will never absolve him. But perhaps now the voices of Cuba will be heard. Speak up, Cuba."

Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule, died Friday night. He was 90.

Now 67, Gross resides in Washington, D.C.

Gross was freed in Havana on Dec. 17, 2014 and flown back to Maryland aboard one of the planes used as Air Force One.

"Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that's rooted in events that took place before most of us were born," President Obama said as Gross was freed. "I do not believe that we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result."

Gross, then 65, was arrested in Havana in December 2009 after he took communications equipment into the Communist nation. He was convicted by a Cuban court of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

It was his fifth trip to the island working for a Bethesda-based contractor to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gross and administration officials say he was trying to help Cuba's small Jewish community gain better access to the Internet and set up their own intranet.

The USAID program has since been canceled. Among the changes that were announced Wednesday, Obama said the United States would allow American businesses to export Internet and other telecommunications equipment to help Cubans communicate with Americans and the rest of the world.

Tribune News Services and Baltimore Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this story.

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