Cuba Admits Gross Is a Pawn
June 4, 2013, 2:31 p.m. ET
Cuba Admits Gross Is a Pawn
By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY
Is Washington engaged in a negotiation with Havana to try to free U.S.
Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross from a Cuban
jail? If so, what’s on the table?
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), Albio Sires (D., N.J.), and Mario
Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) didn’t ask exactly these questions when they
wrote to the State Department’s Assistant Secretary of Western
Hemispheric Affairs Roberta Jacobson Monday, requesting a meeting, but
there can be little doubt about their concerns.
The letter was prompted by the issuance of a visa last month to Josefina
Vidal Ferreiro, Cuba’s director of North American affairs for the Cuban
foreign ministry, so that she could meet with Ms. Jacobson. It is the
second time Ms. Vidal was granted a U.S. visa in just over 12 months.
This has raised some congressional eyebrows, and not only because Ms.
Vidal’s husband is a former diplomat to Washington who was “declared
persona non grata and expelled for his ‘activities hostile to the
national security,’” according to the letter.
A larger problem is that Ms. Vidal is a high-ranking member of Cuba’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As such, the congressmen pointed out in
their letter, “her sole mission is to promote the Cuban regime’s
propaganda, undermine U.S. interests, and justify” Cuba’s repression of
its own people. “In addition, she has been at the forefront defending
the Cuban regime’s unjust holding of a U.S. citizen and harboring U.S.
The implication is that the Obama administration is playing footsie with
the Castros. If so, it would seem to be exactly what Ms. Vidal was
asking for when she appeared in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on
May 10. The CNN host asked, “What would be good for Cuba that could
potentially open the door to freeing Mr. Gross?” Ms. Vidal answered:
“For Cuba it would be a right to have a response on the part of the U.S.
government about its willingness to respond to our proposal to sit down
and initiate a negotiation on [the Gross case] and many other matters
concerning our bilateral relationship.”
In other words, Mr. Gross is a negotiating chip. Ms. Vidal would not say
what Cuba wants in exchange for letting him go, but the release of
several Cuban intelligence officers convicted in 2001 of spying on the
U.S. is likely on the list.
Not surprisingly, the three Cuban-American congressmen object to
negotiating with the dictatorship and are asking, “What was the purpose
and intent” of Ms. Vidal’s trip and “what issues were discussed during
her meeting with Ms. Jacobson?” In addition, they have asked for an
“update” on Mr. Gross’s case, which began in December 2009 when he was
arrested by Cuban authorities for having brought satellite
telecommunications equipment into the country. The 64 year-old is now
serving a 15-year sentence in Havana for his “crime.”
For the record, Ms. Vidal also told CNN viewers that Cuba has free
elections, political competition and free speech.