A letter to Cuba’s American prisoner
Published: 4:53 PM 07/17/2012
By Armando Valladares
Editor's Note: The author was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to
serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights
Commission in Geneva. He was later awarded the Presidential Citizen's Medal.
Alan P. Gross
That is how I am compelled to address you, because even though we have
never met, we share a common bond: I too lived behind the iron bars now
surrounding you in Cuba — in my case for 22 years.
Like you, I was convicted by the Cuban authorities without a single
shred of evidence against me.
I know the anguish of interminable days and endless nights, the feeling
of helplessness when you know yourself to be innocent. I also know the
painful sense of the lack of solidarity from outside the prison walls.
I have no doubt that your greatest pain right now must be the
realization that the U.S. government has turned its back on you. There
was a time when the words "I am an American citizen" meant something.
They meant all the more when the individual declaring that was the
target of abuse outside of the United States. It meant: "I have rights
and they are recognized by the government of my country and they will
ensure that you, too, respect my rights."
It gives me great sadness to say that inside the Communist boot that now
tramples upon your dignity is the foot of the American president, Barack
The more Castro's thugs oppress you and make your family suffer, the
more your jailers torture you, the harder things get for you — the more
this administration seeks to reward them with new concessions. How is it
that in 53 years of Cuba's brutal dictatorship it was only months after
Obama came to the presidency that the Castro brothers first decided to
take an American citizen hostage?
How is it possible that the American administration has turned its back
The pronouncements by the U.S. Department of State that U.S. officials
are doing "everything they can" to secure your freedom are absolutely
false. They are hypocritical statements not backed by any real action.
Under any previous U.S. administration, Democrat or Republican, you
would not still be in jail.
Your case has no precedent in the history of the United States. You are
in prison because of the supreme cowardice of the American president and
his secretary of state. Whether they know it or not, the key to your
cell is inside President Obama's pocket.
The White House has abandoned you. It does not matter to them that you
may be very ill and slowly dying.
It does not matter to them that your daughter has cancer, or that your
wife, too, is ill.
The American president, who has made a habit of publicly bowing to
foreign powers, bows to your torturers and would-be executioners.
Meanwhile, the adult daughter of Cuba's dictator recently visited the
U.S. to applaud and show her support for President Obama. She receives a
visa to come to the United States and a Secret Service escort. And you?
You suffer the torture of imprisonment.
The Obama administration must step up its efforts to press for your
release through its diplomatic channels. Should those diplomatic efforts
fail, then they must be followed by real action, including the
suspension of flights and remittances to Cuba until such time as you are
allowed to return to the United States. If the Obama administration even
threatened to do this it is my considered judgment that you would be on
the next flight back to your home in Washington, D.C.
Only with real action will your freedom be secured. Unfortunately, if
past is prologue, such action is unlikely to ever happen with this
After I was released from prison, President Ronald Reagan appointed me
as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
During my tenure at the U.N., we managed to expose to the world, for the
first time, Cuba's systematic violations of fundamental rights and
freedoms. You know these violations all too well. They are now marked on
your own flesh. You will have your day in the international court, too.
You will have the opportunity to expose your jailers and the suffering
they have imposed on 11 million people for more than half a century.
Please do not lose faith. You are not alone in that cell. God is there
with you, along with the love of your brave wife and the firm commitment
of those of us who continue to fight for your freedom. Do not give in to
despair or to the treachery of those who have abandoned you. I am
convinced, from my own experience, that you will return home, against
all hope …
You are always in my prayers.