Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba’s escape valve

    Posted on Saturday, 10.15.11

    Cuba's escape valve

    OUR OPINION: shows it has no intention of respecting human
    rights, improving relations with the U.S.
    By The Miami Herald Editorial

    As Cuba continues its crack down on dissidents and young Cubans complain
    of no future, the number of Cubans caught at sea or pleading "dry foot"
    here or at crossings on the U.S.-Mexican border have doubled from last year.

    The brothers' escape valve is operational again. That's because
    pressure from within is mounting for change.

    The island's disastrous economy (despite 's oil giveaways) is a
    strong factor, say opposition leaders on the island and Cuban Americans
    who have been in contact with the new arrivals.

    Meanwhile, the Obama administration's attempts to free U.S. Agency for
    International Development worker (for a "crime" that most
    everywhere else would have been handled with a fine and a return trip
    home) have fallen flat.

    No surprise there, as Washington has not yet fully understood that
    Havana has no interest in negotiating better relations with the United
    States. Its intent remains turning Uncle Sam into the Boogey Man, to
    take the heat off the regime's own failings.

    Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went to
    Cuba on an "unofficial" trip looking to bring back Mr. , who's
    serving an outrageous 15-year sentence. Cuba accuses Mr. Gross,
    62 and ill, of being a spy for bringing communications equipment to
    Jewish groups in Havana.

    Predictably, Mr. Richardson returned without him. Just more mind games
    from a 52-year-old dictatorship worried about the ramifications of the
    Arab Spring and fearing what technology in the hands of a new generation
    of Cubans might bring.

    cameras from Santiago to Havana are capturing growing
    discontent for the world to see. Brave young women and men are standing
    on street corners, even on the Capitol steps, to denounce abuses and
    call for democracy. The protests are gaining in number and in support
    from average Cubans on the street.

    Mr. Richardson maintains are improving in Cuba. It's a
    shame he didn't take a few hours out of his dead-end trip to talk with
    the Ladies in White, who have been beaten and detained, or to speak with
    the island's bloggers like Yoani Sánchez.

    In Lima last week, a report issued by the InterAmerican Press
    Association presented a grim picture regarding the harassment of
    journalists and bloggers in Cuba and women like 34-year-old independent
    Sonia Garro. She is among a new generation criticizing the
    Cuban government's treatment of Afro-Cubans.

    Had Mr. Richardson met Ms. Garro and others who have been beaten, he
    wouldn't have expressed surprise that he wasn't allowed to see Mr. Gross
    or meet with Raúl Castro.

    According to a recent New York Times report, Mr. Richardson was prepared
    to press the Obama administration to drop Cuba from the State
    Department's list of nations that sponsor terror, as a goodwill gesture
    in exchange for Mr. Gross.

    But Cuba wants the Cuban Five spies returned for Mr. Gross. One already
    is out on three years' probation after serving a 13-year sentence.

    To compare Mr. Gross' work to help Cubans connect to the outside world
    to that of Cuban spies who were nosing around military bases like
    Homestead's, looking for U.S. secrets, and responsible for the shootdown
    of the planes is ludicrous. To talk of removing
    Cuba from the well-documented list of state sponsors of terror, even
    more so.