AP Interview: Cuba won’t unilaterally free Gross
Posted on Sunday, 10.09.11
AP Interview: Cuba won't unilaterally free Gross
By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
MEXICO CITY — The United States should not expect Cuba to make a
unilateral humanitarian gesture to release an imprisoned American
government contractor, a senior Cuban official said Sunday.
Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison in March for crimes against
the Cuban state. He was arrested in December 2009 after getting caught
illegally bringing communications equipment onto the island while on a
USAID-funded democracy building program.
Cuba's Supreme Court upheld Gross' sentence in August, and U.S. efforts
turned to winning his release on humanitarian grounds. Both his elderly
mother and adult daughter are battling cancer and his family has
suffered financial hardship since his arrest, says his wife, Judy Gross.
During a visit to Mexico, Alarcon said the U.S. government "should get a
good armchair and sit down to wait" if it is hoping for a humanitarian
"To expect a unilateral gesture wouldn't be reasonable," Alarcon said.
He also had harsh words for former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who
visited Cuba in early September to negotiate Gross' release. Cuban
officials rebuffed his efforts, and Richardson went home without seeing
Alarcon said Richardson went to Cuba on a private trip and not as part
of a U.S. mission. Richardson's trip "was like doing amateur diplomacy,
and that doesn't exist, that's Bill's invention," Alarcon said.
Richardson has said he was invited to the island by Cuban officials to
negotiate Gross' release.
Alarcon said Richardson suggested the U.S. and Cuba conduct a swap
between Gross and Rene Gonzalez, one of five Cuban nationals convicted
in 2001 as part of the "Wasp Network" that sought to spy on U.S.
military installations in South Florida. Gonzalez has dual U.S.-Cuban
Gonzalez was released Friday after 13 years in prison but a judge has
ordered him to serve three years probation in the U.S. before returning
Cuban officials say the five attempted to prevent terrorist attacks on
the island by monitoring Cuban exiles and tried to place operatives
inside the campaigns of anti-Castro politicians. They were convicted of
espionage and of trying to infiltrate U.S. military bases.
"Richardson has entangled everything because I can't believe someone
would seriously think that there could be a negotiation between Rene
Gonzalez … a man who was about to complete his sentence … and a man
who is just about to start serving his," Alarcon said.
He said Gonzalez's life is at risk if he remains in South Florida,
especially after U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from
Florida, said Gonzalez "has American blood on his hands."
"Not only is his life at risk … but someone could be interested in
provoking an incident with him to have the judge send him back to
prison," Alarcon said.
Alarcon said sending Gonzalez back to Cuba would be in the best
interests of both the United States and Cuba, and he also urged the
Obama administration free the four other members of the ring still in