Wife of American Held in Cuba Pleads for His Release and Apologizes to Castro
Wife of American Held in Cuba Pleads for His Release and Apologizes to Castro By GINGER THOMPSON
Published: October 24, 2010
WASHINGTON — The wife of an American contractor detained in Cuba nearly a year ago has sent a letter to President Raúl Castro, apologizing for her husband’s actions and pleading for his release.
Excerpts of the letter, which was dated Aug. 4, were first reported on Sunday by Reuters. A lawyer who represents Mrs. Gross said she wanted news of the letter to coincide with debates about Cuba — Latin America’s last Communist outpost — that are scheduled to begin Monday at the United Nations and in the European Union.
In a vote that has become an annual ritual at the United Nations, most members, except for a handful of the United States’ closest allies, are expected to adopt a resolution condemning Washington’s four-decade embargo against Cuba.
Meanwhile, the European Union is scheduled to take up debate of its so-called common position on Cuba, which calls on member nations to urge Cuba to embark on “a process of transition to pluralistic democracy.”
Mr. Gross’s detention is expected to loom large over both debates. A 61-year-old diabetic and the father of two, he was detained last December while traveling in Cuba as part of a semi-covert program of the United States Agency for International Development, the foreign assistance arm of the State Department, aimed at undermining the Cuban government.
American officials have acknowledged that Mr. Gross entered Cuba without the proper visa, and have said he was distributing satellite telephones to religious dissidents.
The Cuban authorities have said Mr. Gross’s activities amounted to espionage, though they have yet to file formal charges against him, raising questions about their motives for detaining him.
In an effort to win Mr. Gross’s release, administration officials and Congressional aides said Usaid had quietly changed the way it administers its programs in Cuba, shifting the focus from those intent on “regime change” to those that support educational exchanges and the growth of small businesses.
The officials said the United States had enlisted many Latin American heads of state to advocate on behalf of Mr. Gross. Washington’s top envoy to Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela, discussed Mr. Gross’s detention with Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, at a meeting in September.
And in recent months, the United States allowed the wife of a convicted Cuban spy, Gerardo Hernández, to visit her husband in prison for the first time since his arrest 12 years ago.
In an interview last week, Havana’s representative in Washington, Jorge Bolaños, criticized the United States for continuing to uphold its embargo despite President Obama’s criticism of the policy during his presidential campaign.
“I see Alan Gross as one episode,” Mr. Bolaños said. “I don’t think his detention should be used to justify a failed policy that has existed for decades.”
In her plea to Mr. Castro, according to the Reuters report, Mrs. Gross said that Cuba and the United States were using her husband as a “pawn.”
“I recognize today that the Cuban government may not like the type of work that Alan was doing in Cuba,” she wrote. “But I want you to know that Alan loves the people of Cuba, and he only wanted to help them.”
She added, “He never intended them, or your government, any harm.”