Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    No time to ease up on Cuba

    Posted on Thursday, 05.22.14

    No time to ease up on Cuba
    OUR OPINION: Havana has done nothing to warrant U.S. concessions
    HERALDED@MIAMIHERALD.COM

    Just as interest groups in this country mount a renewed effort to
    improve U.S. relations with Cuba, the regime in Havana offers fresh
    evidence that this is no time for Washington to ease restrictions on
    trade and travel.

    A letter signed by more than 40 prominent American business figures and
    former diplomats urged President Obama to take advantage of Raúl
    Castro’s efforts to reform the moribund economy by changing the rules on
    trade, travel and investment.

    The impressive list of signers included two former heads of the U.S.
    diplomatic mission in Havana, as well as Thomas Pickering, Strobe
    Talbott and Arturo Valenzuela, all former ranking State Department
    officials. “Timing matters,” said the letter, “and this window of
    opportunity may not remain open indefinitely.”

    Well, yes, timing does matter. On that, we would agree wholeheartedly.
    So let’s take a look at recent events in Cuba and consider the timing:

    • The island’s top human-rights group reported a sharp rise in
    short-term arrests of Cuban dissidents in the first four months of this
    year. The total came to 3,821, more than double the figure for the first
    quarter of 2013. Human-rights leaders say this reflects rising popular
    discontent and the government’s grim determination to stifle it.

    • This week, prominent blogger Yoani Sánchez attempted to break the
    government’s 55-year monopoly on distribution of information by
    launching a digital newspaper called 14ymedio (“14 and a half” in
    English). It was hacked shortly after its morning launch, and visitors
    inside the island were redirected to a page devoted to criticizing Ms.
    Sánchez — the work of a regime incapable of tolerating freedom of
    expression.

    • This week, also, a publication of the U.N. Security Council issued a
    report playing up Cuba’s role in trying to break the international
    embargo on shipping arms to the rogue regime in North Korea last July.
    Although the Security Council may wimp out by giving Cuba a mere slap on
    the wrist, the report leaves no doubt that Cuba’s role in the Chong Chon
    Gang incident was an egregious violation of the international arms embargo.

    • Meanwhile, four and half years after his initial arrest, U.S. citizen
    Alan Gross spent his 65th birthday earlier this month in a Cuban jail.
    The pretext for his incarceration amounts to no more than a Customs
    violation, but he’s actually being held as a political hostage in hopes
    the United States will swap him for Cuban spies in U.S. jails.

    And that’s just a partial list of recent Cuban violations of
    internationally recognized rules of conduct, violations that occur with
    depressing regularity on the beleaguered island.

    In March, the dissident group Ladies in White reported, for example,
    that State Security officers detained several members handing out toys
    at a park and seized the 60 to 70 toys. That’s right — toys. During
    Easter here in Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski asked that masses at the
    Our Lady of Charity shrine say special prayers for Cuban dissident Sonia
    Garro and two others jailed without trial in Cuba since shortly before a
    papal mass in Havana in 2012.

    This continuing display of unbending authoritarian rule makes it
    imperative that the Obama administration take no actions that would be
    deemed a concession to the unreformed, intransigent despots in Havana.
    That is especially true regarding the plight of Alan Gross. Until he is
    released, there can be no easing of sanctions against the Cuban regime.

    Source: No time to ease up on Cuba – Editorials – MiamiHerald.com –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/22/4132449/no-time-to-ease-up-on-cuba.html