- Cuba to let U.S. doctor examine Alan Gross, 64, a jailed State Department contractor
- Gross' family says he's in ill health; Cuban officials say he's healthy for his age
- Gross is serving 15 years for bringing banned communications equipment to the island
- Cuba wants to negotiate Gross' fate and that of Cubans in U.S. federal prison for spying
A U.S. State Department contractor jailed in Cuba will be allowed to receive a medical exam from a U.S. doctor, a Cuban government official told CNN Wednesday.
The family of Alan Gross, 64, for months had asked that they be permitted to send a doctor to examine the Maryland native who is serving a 15-year sentence for bringing to Cuba banned communications equipment as part of a U.S. government-funded program to promote democracy on the island.
Gross' family said that he has lost more than 100 pounds since his incarceration in 2009 and that a mass on his shoulder may be cancerous.
The Cuban government countered that Gross receives medical care from Cuban doctors at the prison hospital where he is being held and that he is in good condition for a man his age.
Jared Gensler, an attorney for Gross, declined to comment on the Cuban government's allowing Gross to receive a visit from a U.S. physician or when the visit would take place.
The change in course comes as Cuba has intensified its campaign to secure the release of Cuban intelligence agents serving lengthy prison sentences in the United States.
Cuban officials argue that the men infiltrated hard-line Cuban-exile groups to prevent terrorist attacks on the island.
But U.S. prosecutors called the men spies, and they were convicted in 2001.
Four of the agents remain in U.S. federal prison. The fifth man, Rene Gonzalez, returned to Cuba last month after serving 14 years in prison and on supervised release.
Gonzalez, who was born in Chicago, renounced his U.S. citizenship last month as part of a deal that allowed him to return to the island and not serve a final year of supervised release in the U.S.
Cuba will continue to push for the four other agents' release, Gonzalez said in a news conference in Havana Wednesday.
"We have hope that if the American people know about the case, the facts, they will put pressure on the White House for a solution," Gonzalez said.
Last year, Cuban officials said they wanted to negotiate the jailed agents' case along with Gross'.
"The ball's in their court," said Johana Tablada, subdirector of the department that oversees U.S. affairs at Cuba's Foreign Ministry. "We are waiting on the U.S. government's response."
But U.S. officials have rejected calls for a prisoner swap, instead arguing that Gross did not spy during his visits to Cuba and should be released immediately.
"Hopefully, a solution can be found that is mutually beneficial," said Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, a Cuban organization working to secure the agents' freedom. "All the families involved have suffered greatly."