Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama Could Lift Sanctions Against Cuba After Next Week’s Election, Says Congressman

    Obama Could Lift Sanctions Against Cuba After Next Week’s Election, Says
    By Michael E. Miller Mon., Oct. 27 2014 at 9:00 AM

    The Cuban expression “mañana, mañana.” is often interpreted by Anglos as
    an excuse for laziness. In fact, the saying speaks volumes about its
    island of origin. In a country that has been led by one Castro or
    another for more than half a century, what hope can there be that
    tomorrow will be any different from today?
    Earlier this month, that question brought several dozen experts,
    academics, and journalists to Columbia Journalism School in Manhattan.
    Optimism was evident in the conference’s title — Covering Cuba in an
    Era of Change — as well as in the presentations, which included strong
    hints that the embargo’s days are numbered.

    Gregory Craig, former White House counsel under Barack Obama, said the
    president already has the legal power to lift most of the sanctions that
    have crippled Cuba since the fall of the Soviet Union. Although Congress
    probably would refuse to officially overturn the embargo, Obama could —
    and should — instantly normalize diplomatic relations and allow
    Americans to travel to the island, Craig said.

    Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern outlined a six-month window in
    which Obama is most likely to make a move, beginning after next week’s
    midterm elections and concluding with the Summit of the Americas in late

    If Obama and Raúl Castro both attend as predicted, it will be the first
    official meeting between two countries’ leaders since Raúl and Fidel
    swept down from the Sierra Maestra.

    “We are reassured [by the White House] that people are working on it,”
    McGovern said of a U.S.-Cuba policy change. “The stars seem to be aligned.”

    Many roadblocks remain, however. McGovern warned that any rapprochement
    would require dealing with both Alan Gross — the USAID contractor
    imprisoned in Cuba since 2011 for distributing satellite phones without
    a permit — and the three surviving members of the “Cuban Five,” the
    Castro agents who spied on Miami’s exile community.

    Easing the embargo would also cost Obama politically. “I think part of
    the reluctance is that [the administration] will get some pushback from
    people who are in pretty serious positions,” McGovern said, including
    Miami’s hard-line Cubans.

    Perhaps the most concrete evidence that things are already changing on
    the island was the presence of three Cuban journalists at the
    conference. Miriam Celaya, Elaine Díaz, and Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo have
    all been allowed to leave under recently relaxed travel restrictions.
    Celaya is scheduled to return to Havana this week, while Díaz and Pardo
    are on yearlong academic fellowships.
    But Celaya and Pardo hardly painted a promising picture of their
    homeland. Celaya said she had been blocked from entering the library
    because of her journalism. Other reporters had been beaten and
    imprisoned, Pardo said. Both described having to share articles via
    paquetes, or troves of documents on flash drives. And Pardo said Cuba’s
    infamous state security apparatus remained intact despite the growth of
    internet on the island.

    “Our own [Edward] Snowden would not survive, would not escape,” he
    warned. “Our own Snowden would be shot on the spot.”

    Ultimately, despite the talk of Obama ending the embargo and ushering in
    change in Cuba, Pardo feared that the solution was still, as it has been
    for 50 years, “biological.”

    Source: Obama Could Lift Sanctions Against Cuba After Next Week’s
    Election, Says Congressman | Miami New Times –