Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    If Alan Gross Dies in Cuba… Who Is Responsible?

    If Alan Gross Dies in Cuba… Who Is Responsible?
    Posted: 08/15/2014 3:27 pm EDT Updated: 08/15/2014 3:59 pm

    Raul Castro, Barack Obama, Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio, Ileana
    Ros-Lehtinen, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart or Joe Garcia?

    All of the above!!!! But especially the last six.

    The government of the United States and the government of Cuba should
    feel deeply ashamed by their inability to find a way for Alan Gross to
    visit with his mother before her death or to attend her funeral.

    Either side could have broken the impasse.

    It doesn’t matter which was most at fault. Both lost the opportunity to
    show they put human compassion first.

    The question now is how they address his declining psychological and
    physical condition, as reported in the Baltimore Sun:
    “I’ve never seen Alan in such bad shape during all the years that the
    Cuban government has kept him,” [Judy Gross] said in a statement. “Our
    daughter, Nina, was unprepared to see how gaunt and physically frail her
    father has become. And his decision to say goodbye to us was wrenching.”…
    …attorney Scott Gilbert said. “He’s lost most of the vision in his
    right eye. His hips are failing and he can barely walk. He has stopped
    all attempts to exercise. Alan’s emotional deterioration has been
    severe, and his mother’s lingering and painful death has only
    accelerated this.”
    This is not the first time Alan’s wife and lawyer have dramatically
    sounded the alarm about his health. The Cubans correctly point out that
    the conditions of their three still imprisoned operatives are worse.
    Nevertheless, there is a sense that time is running out and the
    consequences could be dire.

    Ideally the much desired and much rumored negotiated deal can be quickly
    consummated that allows each country to gain what is most important
    while maintaining its pride.

    Under the law when and where they were arrested Alan and the Cuban Five
    were guilty. The fairness of both trials left much to be desired and the
    sentences were excessive. The bottom line is that all were witting and
    willing instruments of anachronistic policies but they have paid an
    undeserved price because of their governments inflexibility and

    The only people who will benefit from Alan’s death in prison are the
    hard liners in Florida and New Jersey who seem to have immobilized the

    Three hundred rabbis have written to President Obama,
    enabling/pressuring him to take the necessary steps to achieve Alan’s
    negotiated freedom:
    Alan went to Cuba on behalf of our government. His immediate release
    from prison in Cuba and return to the U.S. must be a priority for our
    nation. Indeed, we believe this is a moral imperative. Our communities
    are gravely concerned that Alan continues to languish in a Cuban prison
    nearly five years after his arrest.

    We ask, with all respect, that you take whatever steps are necessary to
    ensure a prompt end to Alan’s, and his family’s, continuing nightmare.
    This implicit call for negotiations is very similar to a letter sent to
    the president last December by two-thirds of the Senate, authored by
    Senator Leahy and including Ted Cruz.

    The question is whether the inability of the White House to respond is
    based on ignorance, ideology or political fear.

    The words this week of the State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki,
    suggest at her level it is a mix of the first two:
    MS. PSAKI: Well, Nicole, let me first say that Cuban authorities have
    unjustifiably kept Alan Gross in prison for more than four years merely
    for helping Cuban citizens gain access to the internet, a goal the Cuban
    Government now espouses. We keep his case at the forefront of
    discussions with the Cuban Government, make clear the importance the
    United States places on his welfare. And we engage also with a range of
    our foreign counterparts at the highest levels and urge them to advocate
    for his release. So we urgently reiterate our call for the Cuban
    Government to release him immediately.
    Did she check with her boss? John Kerry presumably knew when he headed
    the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the goal of Alan’s project
    was to set up illegally a network of covert satellite links to the
    Internet, an important step in the Bush launched USAID “democracy”
    campaign in Cuba.

    Judy and Alan no longer buy the spin. The “forefront of discussions” is
    meaningless unless the US drops rhetorical demands for immediate (i.e.
    unconditional) release and holds serious negotiations directly with
    Cuba. Presumably they start with accepting US government responsibility
    for what Alan was really doing and his violation of Cuban law.

    Certainly the public words of Washington about Alan, as well as of
    Havana about the Five, offer little hope for movement because they
    express no regret.

    Both countries seem unable to move beyond affirmations of the
    legitimacy, even moral purpose, of their employees’ projects. Each
    expects the other to act as though its laws are without merit. Neither
    government fully acknowledges what was done and pledges to behave
    differently in the future.

    Ms. Psaki’s words came in the middle of her convoluted, defensive and
    embarrassing effort (text here) to justify to the press the latest USAID
    scandal, a well paid contract to Creative Associates to send poorly paid
    and poorly prepared Latin American students to identify government
    opponents among young people in Cuba, exposed by Associated Press. (Read
    the full version here.)

    The topic of USAID incompetence is worth returning to in another blog,
    but a response from Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s point person on US relations,
    is relevant to Alan’s case:
    These deeds confirm that the Government of the United States has not
    desisted from its hostile and meddlesome plans against Cuba, that it
    attempts to create situations of destabilization to provoke changes in
    our political order, for which it earmarks millions of dollars every year.

    The Government of the United States must cease once and for all its
    subversive, illegal and covert actions against Cuba, which violate our
    sovereignty and the express will of the Cuban people to improve our
    economic and social model and consolidate our democracy.
    The Miami mantra about Alan is that he is a hostage, arrested as a
    bargaining chip for the Five. I have argued frequently that, by
    detaining Alan, Cuba was sending a signal to the Obama administration
    that it could not at the same time seek to turn the page on bilateral
    relations and continue with Bush era regime change projects.

    I believe that initially US acknowledgement of responsibility and a
    pledge to end similar programs would have won Alan’s speedy release.
    Now, the only way to know whether that would be enough, or what else
    must be done, is to be in serious bilateral negotiations.

    It is worth quoting again the words of Judy Gross seven months ago
    “I do know that there are those in Congress with hatred so strong toward
    Cuba that they are willing to let Alan rot in prison. This way of
    thinking has failed to bring Alan home for four years and is a death
    sentence for Alan. … I urge all South Florida residents to send
    messages and meet with Senator Mark Rubio, Congresswoman Debbie
    Wasserman Schultz, Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman
    Mario Diaz-Balart. … We need to try something different or Alan will
    die in prison.”

    Sadly to her list must be added Congressmen Joe Garcia, the best hope of
    a rational voice among national Cuban American politicians, and William
    Keating a liberal Democrat from the Cape Cod area. Both were signers of
    a retrograde letter from 17 members of the House, including all those on
    Judy’s list, who reiterated the dead end position that provoked her despair:
    humanitarian aid worker Alan Gross has remained imprisoned in Cuba for
    over four years for the “crime” of helping Cuba’s small Jewish community
    connect to the internet. We appreciate the Administration’s efforts to
    help secure the unconditional release of Mr. Gross
    There is an underlying tone in this letter, issued just before the long
    August recess, that the signers are fearful something might be afoot to
    obtain Alan’s release. It begins with
    As you know, the embargo against the Castro dictatorship is codified in
    U.S. law and cannot be lifted without an act of Congress. Sanctions must
    not be lifted unless and until free, fair elections are scheduled,
    political prisoners are released, and independent press, organized
    labor, and political parties are legalized.
    Perhaps they are correctly worried that the president might use his
    executive authority to suspend provisions of the embargo which are not
    in the national interest. The concluding paragraph seems gratuitous
    unless something is in play.
    We hope that you will affirm to us, in no uncertain terms, that you
    remain committed to longstanding U.S. policy which supports the Cuban
    people in their struggle for freedom while denying the pretense of
    legitimacy, and access to dollars, to their oppressors.
    If President Obama frees Alan Gross through direct negotiations, the
    letter signers will denounce that as providing the “pretense of
    legitimacy.” If he expands trips by middle income visitors and
    back-packers with a general license for all people to people travel,
    they will condemn it as giving “access to dollars,” even if owners of
    private bed and breakfasts are the largest beneficiaries.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

    Source: If Alan Gross Dies in Cuba… Who Is Responsible? | John
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