Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    It’s Cuba’s turn to be humanitarian

    It's Cuba's turn to be humanitarian
    By Judith E. Gross | From the Newspaper | 12 hours ago

    WASHINGTON: There is nothing more agonising than losing a loved one. The
    pain is made all the worse if there is no closure, no ability to say
    goodbye, no comforting one another.

    Ren Gonzlez, one of five Cuban intelligence officers — known as the
    "Cuban Five" — convicted in the United States of espionage and related
    charges, attained supervised release in Miami last year after 13 years
    in prison. A federal judge recently granted Gonzlez's humanitarian
    request to return to Cuba temporarily to say goodbye to his brother, who
    has terminal brain and lung cancer. I hope they find solace in their
    time together.

    When US District Judge Joan Lenard responded to Gonzlez's plea last
    month, I thought she made the right and moral decision. I began to hope
    the Cuban government would respond similarly to the situation of my
    husband, Alan Gross.

    Alan has been imprisoned in Cuba since Dec 3, 2009, for providing
    improved Internet access to three Cuban Jewish communities as part of
    his work under a subcontract with the US Agency for International
    Development. Alan was not and is not a spy, as Cuban President Raul
    Castro has publicly agreed. Among the many other differences between
    Gonzlez and my husband is that Alan is not yet able to say goodbye to a
    terminally ill loved one.

    Alan's 89-year-old mother has inoperable lung cancer. She longs to see
    her son. So far, the Cuban government has not decided to reciprocate the
    humanitarian gesture extended to Gonzlez. Are Cuba's leaders really that
    cold and uncaring? Why will they not allow Alan the same humanitarian
    privilege granted to Gonzlez?

    There had been reason recently to think Cuba was open to such
    "humanitarian reciprocity." Although Alan was held in Cuba without
    charge for 14 months and then summarily tried and sentenced, Cuba's
    foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, told the New York Times in September
    that he did not "see any way in which we can move on towards a solution
    of the Mr. Gross case but from a humanitarian point of view and on the
    basis of reciprocity."

    Last month, Cuba's vice foreign minister, Josefina Vidal, told MSNBC:
    "We have conveyed to the United States government our willingness to
    have a dialogue to look for a solution on this case on [a] humanitarian
    reciprocal basis and we are waiting for a response."

    Just a few days after Vidal's comments, Cuba received its response: Rene
    Gonzlez arrived in Havana on March 30 to visit his suffering brother,
    thanks to Lenard's humanitarian order.

    I also felt hopeful because, early last month, my husband similarly made
    a direct request to Castro for permission to visit the United States for
    two weeks to be with his mother on what may be her final birthday. Alan
    had just learned that his mother's lung cancer had taken a turn for the

    Alan and his mother, Evelyn, who turns 90 on Sunday, have always shared
    a special bond. Before his arrest, they spoke several times a day. Their
    phone calls were filled with stories, jokes and lots of laughter.
    Unfortunately, that warm tradition has been degraded to the occasional
    heart-wrenching phone call from a son who knows his mother is fading
    with each passing minute.

    Their laughter has been replaced by tears. I see the way they are
    tormented by the fact they may never see each other again.

    Both recognise that their fate lies in Castro's hands, just as Gonzlez's
    fate rested with Lenard.

    This week we are celebrating Passover — the Jewish holiday commemorating
    the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. We are
    reminded of the struggles our ancestors encountered so we might
    experience true freedom. As a family, we remain hopeful that Castro will
    likewise make the honourable, courageous and humanitarian decision to
    allow Alan to visit his mother. The anticipated chorus of responses on
    both sides — attempting to distinguish crimes, sentences and even
    governments — is irrelevant if the decision maker's motivation is purely
    humanitarian, as was Lenard's.

    Cuban authorities, in particular Castro, should demonstrate whether they
    are the humanitarian people they claim to be, seriously interested in
    reciprocity and honouring their words — or whether their words are empty
    rhetoric, intended all along to deceive.