Alan Gross is an American who was held prisoner in Cuba for five long years during the Obama administration. It was during this time that Senator Bernie Sanders made a trip to the region and effectively commended the communist country.
Sens Sanders, Heidi Heitkamp, and Jon Tester were part of a 2014 congressional delegation to Cuba, where the democratic socialist would meet with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and Alan Gross, an American aid worker who had been imprisoned for four years at the time.
“We spent an hour with Alan Gross,” Sanders had said at the time. “It was an interesting conversation and certainly we talked to the foreign minister about that.”
Now it is being revealed that the content of that conversation was likely quite unnerving to Gross, who was seeing Cuba in a whole different light than Sanders.
“He said, quote: ‘I don’t know what’s so wrong with this country,'” Gross revealed in a recent NPR interview.
Sanders’ campaign has declined to comment, and Tester says that he does not recall that particular interaction. Heitkamp was of arguably little help, claiming that while she does remember an unsettling exchange – as well as Sanders seemingly dismissing the meeting altogether – she does not recall specifics.
But even without independent verification from his fellow delegation members, it’s clear that comments like this are on-brand for Sanders, who recently faced a GOP resolution condemning his praise for the Cuban Castro regime. It was defeated by House Democrats in a 224-189 vote along party lines.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba. But it’s unfair to simply say that everything is bad,” said the Democratic presidential candidate in a 60 Minutes interview. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?”
Gross was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which was attempting to set up internet access for Cuba’s relatively small Jewish community that would function outside of the oppressive restrictions in place due to the Castro regime. He said his incarceration was “akin to sensory deprivation.”
“The first year of my captivity was akin to sensory deprivation because I saw about 20 minutes of sunlight during the first year,” he admitted.
He was eventually released as the result of a trade deal in which the United States agreed to return 3 Cuban prisoners who were convicted by the US government of spying.
“Senator Sanders didn’t really engage much in the conversation,” Gross recalled of the one-hour meeting of the group. “I just think, you know, it was a stupid thing for him to do. First, how could he not have seen the incredible deterioration of what was once the grandeur of the pre-Castro era. And two, how could he be so insensitive to make that remark to a political hostage — me!”
Upon his return to the United States, it was discovered that Gross had lost five teeth and over 100 pounds during his 1,841-day incarceration.
Gross believes that it is his time to speak following the recent interview with Sanders, as it could have a significant impact on America if the democratic socialist were to win the presidency.
“I mean, it’s relevant now. The guy’s running for president of the United States. And for him to make those statements demonstrating a basic lack of a grasp on reality is problematic to me. I don’t want to see this guy in the White House,” he said, publically opposing Sanders’ campaign.
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