Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba hoping to benefit from possible Gross release

    Posted on Monday, 11.26.12


    Cuba hoping to benefit from possible Gross release


    Gen. Raúl Castro's regime is considering a pardon for Alan Gross, the

    American USAID subcontractor in Cuba in December 2009 and

    sentenced to 15 years in jail for distributing computers to the Jewish

    community in the island.

    This calculated olive branch to the just-reelected Obama administration

    has two objectives. First, to obtain U.S. concessions in the area of

    by U.S. citizens to Cuba. Second, to obtain the release of four

    Cuban spies, serving sentences in U.S. jails for espionage activities on

    behalf of the Castro government.

    Some within the Castro regime are arguing that the Obama administration

    will be pushed to offer major concessions if Cuba frees Gross. The

    reasons: there is a pent-up demand for travel to Cuba; American tourists

    will bring much needed dollars; and Cuba's efficient security apparatus

    could control American tourists, primarily interested in visiting Cuban

    beaches and less concerned about subverting the Communist regime.

    Most argue that American tourists will have little impact, other than

    economic. They point out that over the past several years hundreds of

    thousands of Canadian, Europeans and Latin American tourists have

    visited the island. There have been no major political changes. Money

    from tourists, furthermore, has been flowing into businesses owned by

    the Castro government and the Cuban military, thus strengthening state


    The recent migration law enacted by Cuba that eases travel for Cubans to

    visit the United States and other countries is also entering into Gen.

    Castro's calculations. The liberalization of Cuban travel will put

    pressure on the Obama administration to allow Americans to travel to the

    island. From Cuba's point of view it is a win/win situation. More Cubans

    will travel abroad, many staying in the host country or making their way

    to the U.S. More American tourists will travel to Cuba leaving their

    dollars in the island.

    What should the United States do? Any major policy concession to Cuba

    will be out of proportion to the release of an unjustly imprisoned

    American. Gross is a hostage being used by the Cuban government to exact

    change from the U.S. The history of U.S-Cuba relations has been

    characterized by Cuba's daring actions followed by major U.S.

    concessions (i.e. U.S.-Cuba migration accord allowing 20,000 Cubans to

    enter the United States following Mariel).

    The release of Gross should be seen as a humanitarian gesture requiring

    no action on the part of the United States. When Raúl Castro is willing

    to offer irreversible concessions, the administration should respond in

    kind. Ping-pong diplomacy worked with . Tit for tat should with Cuba.

    Jaime Suchlicki is director of the Institute for Cuban and

    Cuban-American Studies at the of Miami.