Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba Admits Gross Is a Pawn

    June 4, 2013, 2:31 p.m. ET

    Cuba Admits Gross Is a Pawn

    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.