Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Free Alan Gross

    Free Alan Gross
    Monday, May 14, 2012

    After spending two years and five months in Cuban detention on dubious
    charges of subversion, American Alan Gross recently told CNN that he
    feels like a "hostage." The U.S. State Department agrees.

    Gross, 63, was arrested in 2009, while he was working as a subcontractor
    for the U.S. Agency for International Development on a project designed
    to link Cuba's Jewish community to the Internet. For the crime of
    transporting laptops and other telecommunications equipment into Havana,
    a Cuban court found Gross guilty of "acts against the independence or
    territorial integrity" and sentenced him to 15 years.

    While the Castro government asserts that conditions are not poor, Gross
    has lost 100 pounds while being held in a military hospital. His
    90-year-old mother suffers from lung cancer and cannot travel. Gross has
    pleaded for Havana at least to allow him to see his mother one last
    time. He even has offered to return to Cuba afterward.

    The Cuban government sent CNN's Wolf Blitzer a letter offering to hold a
    dialogue to find a humanitarian solution "on a reciprocal basis." The
    State Department takes the gesture as yet another attempt by the regime
    to swap its release of Gross in exchange for Washington's release of
    five Cuban intelligence agents found guilty of trying to infiltrate U.S.
    military institutions in 2001.

    On the plus side, the Castro regime deserves credit for allowing Gross
    to use his weekly phone call to contact CNN and make his case. On the
    down side, the news coverage serves to remind the world of the
    repressive policies of President Raul Castro.

    Every country has a right to uphold on its sovereignty. Havana certainly
    had a right to sanction Gross for misusing a tourist visa to transport
    laptops and other devices. Even still, Cuba's use of Gross as a pawn -
    for the crime of trying to put Cubans onto the Internet - shows how
    truly vulnerable Castro's hold on Cuba must be.

    This article appeared on page A - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle