Alan Gross

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

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President Obama’s annual State of the Union address aired Tuesday night. It’s customary for the president, the first lady and congresspeople to invite guests to the address, and Florida viewers may have recognize a few names and faces. The guests ran the gamut from former political prisoners to activists.

ALAN AND JUDY GROSS

The president invited aid contractor and recently freed Cuban political prisoner Alan Gross and his wife, Judy, to Tuesday evening’s address.

Jeff Flake

U.S. government contract worker Alan Gross was released Wednesday morning after a five-year imprisonment in Cuba.

The 65-year-old, now in poor health, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Cuban court in 2011 for bringing telecommunications devices onto the island.

WLRN has reported on Gross' trajectory with the Cuban government and you can read those stories here.

At noon Wednesday, President Barack Obama also announced his new approach in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Gross family

Today marks five years since U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross was jailed in Cuba on controversial spying charges. Gross's wife is warning he may not survive another year -- and says the family is “at the end.”

Gross, 65, is serving a 15-year sentence for bringing what Cuban officials called illegal communications equipment into the communist island. Gross was more likely arrested as retaliation for the U.S. 2001 conviction of five Cuban spies. Three are still in U.S. prisons, and the Cuban government wants them freed as a condition for freeing Gross.

Courtesy Jill Tahmooressi

There’s an old saying among Mexican officials when dealing with the United States: Always tell the gringos yes, but never tell them when.

That dance is the result of two centuries of tortured bilateral relations marked by U.S. insensitivity and Mexican hypersensitivity. And it’s most likely what’s playing out now as Washington and Mexico City haggle over the fate of a former U.S. Marine, Andrew Tahmooressi.

Gross family

Can the Vatican free Alan Gross in Cuba? It helps first to consider how the Roman Catholic Church freed itself in Cuba.

Cuba has seen surprising turns in recent years. Fidel Castro handing the communist dictatorship to his younger brother Raúl. Raúl decreeing capitalist reforms to save the communist dictatorship.