Maryland Senate honors former Cuba political prisoner

The Maryland Senate honors Alan Gross, a former political prisoner in Cuba.

A Marylander who spent five years as a political prisoner in Cuba called for faster progress toward reconciliation with the Communist nation as he was honored Friday by the Maryland Senate.

Alan Gross, of Potomac, traveled to Annapolis a little more than a year after he was released by Cuban authorities as part of the agreement that led to the Obama administration's restoration of full diplomatic relations with the island state.

Gross, an aid worker who had been assisting Cuba's small Jewish community, was arrested  in 2009 and later convicted of crimes against the state. Former United States President Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis were among those who appealed for his release before Cuba freed him in December 2014 in the run-up to the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana last year.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, said Gross lost five teeth and 100 pounds during his imprisonment but since his release has gained weight and had his teeth restored.

Gross, 66, told senators he is "focused on the next five years, not the last five years." He said that if his ordeal had no other purpose than to help restore diplomatic ties, he is satisfied.

"Even though we're moving in a slow pace, it's better than no pace," he said.

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