Ex-Cuban prisoner Alan Gross: Obama visit ‘very courageous’
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An American who spent five years in Cuban prison voiced admiration for President Obama’s upcoming visit to the island nation in an interview published Friday.

“His interest in going to Cuba is a very courageous thing to do, as was the decision to bring me home,” Alan Gross, a former contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, told Bloomberg.

“If we’re the leading country in the world, then we should lead by example [and stop] punishing a country for something that happened in the past that they’re trying to climb out of. People just don’t understand: Life in Cuba for 11.3 million people is horrendous. They’re just as much prisoners as I was."

Gross, who was released in December 2014, also slammed Cuba leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro for their communist ideology.

“The Castros are totally irrelevant to Cuba’s future,” he said. "From a practical standpoint, they’ll be gone within a matter of a few years. Their legacy will be very difficult for Cuba to escape from. But Cuba will escape from that, and we need to get out of the way."

Gross additionally rebuked American lawmakers who are critical of Obama’s move to normalize diplomatic ties with Havana.

“[They’re] irrational when it comes to Cuba," he said. "Some of them can say I’m suffering from Stockholm syndrome, but I dare them to say it to my face. As someone who’s worked in international development for the last 35 years, I think that improving relations with Cuba is in our best interests.”

Gross was arrested in December 2009 for bringing computer and satellite equipment onto Cuban soil without proper permits.

His remarks come as Obama prepares for a historic visit there starting March 20. Obama announced in late 2014 that America and Cuba were restoring diplomatic ties after decades of tensions stemming from the Cold War.