Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    The Alan Gross Case: A Blow to Obama’s Soft Cuba Policy

    The Case: A Blow to Obama's Soft Cuba Policy
    Posted February 7th, 2011 at 3:00pm in American Leadership

    On February 4, the Cuban government announced it will demand a 20-year
    sentence for U.S. citizen Alan . The 61-year-old Maryland
    resident was in December 2009 in after visiting Cuba to
    distribute satellite phones to Jewish and other civil society groups.
    Although details of his activities remain sketchy, Gross was employed by
    Development Alternatives, Inc., a U.S. State Department contractor,
    rendering democracy support work in the field. Gross was helping deliver
    technologies of that Cuba's leaders greatly fear.

    After over a year in jail, Gross, who is in declining , is now
    formally charged with the commission of acts against "the integrity and
    independence" of Cuba. A Havana show trial will soon follow.

    The case is of high importance to the Obama Administration. Assistant
    Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Arturo Valenzuela noted on
    January 11 that the Obama Administration "made it clear to the Cuban
    authorities that it's very difficult to move to greater engagement in
    the context where they have continued to hold Alan Gross." Cuban
    readiness to prosecute and condemn Gross to a slow death in a Havana
    prison is a heavy blow to the Administration's soft policy of enhanced

    Over the past two years, the Obama Administration has sought to improve
    ties with Cuba by using executive authority to lift restrictions on
    and the dispatch of remittances to the island. The last round of
    liberalization measures were introduced in early January. It has also
    conducted several rounds of immigration talks with senior Cuban officials.

    The underlying assumption of this policy is that greater access to the
    island by Cuban–Americans, more "people-to-people" exchanges, respectful
    dialogue on issues of mutual interest, and easier transfers of
    remittances will build shared confidence and closer ties. Since 2009,
    the Obama Administration has distanced itself from the tough,
    pro-democracy stance of the Bush Administration, frequently derided as a
    strategy of "regime change." Obama has embraced a strategy aimed at
    dialogue, tension reductions, and readiness to engineer a "soft landing"
    as the brothers fade from the political scene and a succession
    crisis looms on the horizon.

    Yet, not unexpectedly, Cuban behavior in the Gross case is consistent
    with previous responses to U.S. openings. Once more the open hand of the
    Obama Administration encounters the clenched fist of Cuban tyranny.
    While less tragic, the Gross case is reminiscent of events such as the
    cold-blooded murder of four Cuban-Americans belonging to the Brothers to
    the Rescue in 1996. This brutal act torpedoed a budding effort by the
    Clinton Administration to improve relations with the Castro regime.

    Cuba's message is clear: At the political core of the regime are its
    rejection of open dissent, pluralism, and genuine democracy and a
    reaffirmation of the principles of democratic centralism and political
    conformity so central to the Marxist–Leninist regime. It is also a
    reflection of deeply rooted anti-Americanism and "siege-mentality"
    situated at the core of the regime's ideology.

    In Cuba, where all justice is political, there are still avenues open to
    . He can magnanimously pardon Gross after a conviction. At
    the back of Raul's mind may be further pressure on the U.S. to pardon or
    release the so-called Cuban Five, who are charged with spying for Cuba
    in the 1990s. Many in the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress
    are hoping the Gross case will be just a speed bump on the way to better
    relations with the Castros. In the interim, Gross faces a bleak and
    unjust incarceration.

    When the world's eyes are focused on Egypt and growing demands for real
    democracy there, Cuba—90 miles from the U.S.—remains a bastion of
    anti-democracy ruled by the Castro brothers for more than 50 years.
    Standing up for democracy in Egypt should not be matched by silence on Cuba.

    Tags: Alan Gross, cuba