Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Dissidents feel betrayed, abandoned

    Dissidents feel betrayed, abandoned
    12/18/2014 7:01 PM 12/18/2014 7:01 PM

    Americans rejoice that an American hostage has been freed from a Cuban
    prison. For five years, Raúl Castro bartered Alan Gross for the release
    of Cubans convicted of spying on U.S. military bases. In the end,
    President Obama struck the deal that he expects will reset U.S.-Cuba
    relations. Soon negotiations will start with Havana, but much of what
    the regime wanted has already been given by Washington, without getting
    anything in return.

    Cuba’s dissidents on the island feel betrayed and abandoned by Obama,
    just like the Syrians who witnessed the killing of thousands of men,
    women and children after the president promised to act if Bashar Assad
    crossed Obama’s “red line.”

    In fact, the first casualty of Obama’s Cuba policy was the cancellation
    by Raúl Castro of the Jan. 8, 2015 talks on human rights with the
    European Union that were to be conducted in Havana. Now that the new
    U.S. policy will bring untold millions to Castro’s coffers, Castro
    probably feels that if Venezuela’s subsidies, indispensable until now,
    are diminished he could count on American tourists to help him get along.

    Gen. Castro, who has been wearing civilian clothes for awhile, was
    suddenly wearing his military uniform in a Cuban TV broadcast this week.
    He said that Obama’s concessions were not enough, and his controlled
    media have yet to publish in full the U.S. president’s Cuba speech.

    Gross’ situation in no way mirrored that of the released Cuban spies. He
    committed no crime recognized by international law: He gave a small
    Cuban Jewish group a laptop computer and a satellite telephone to
    connect to the Internet. Held on trumped-up charges, he was sentenced to
    15 years in prison. Two years ago, a U.N. report described the trial as
    unfair and arbitrary and urged Raúl Castro to set him free without delay.

    Cuba’s political trials are unfair, arbitrary and lack the most basic
    procedural safeguards. Tens of thousands of Cubans have been sentenced
    to long prison terms for disagreeing with the regime in such kangaroo
    courts. Havana does not allow the International Committee of the Red
    Cross to visit such prisons.

    By contrast, the Cuban spies were publicly tried in U.S. courts and
    provided lawyers; Cuban military officers were allowed to testify on
    their behalf. They were convicted of spying on the U.S. military and
    providing information that led to the murder of four Miami civilians
    flying two, single-engine Cessnas searching for refugees; the planes
    were shot down over international waters in the Florida Straits by Cuban

    After the Cuban spies were convicted, one was furloughed to return to
    Cuba to see a sick relative; it was a privilege Castro denied Gross when
    Gross’ mother was dying.

    The regime grabbed Alan Gross not for anything he did, but specifically
    to use him as a hostage to extort concessions from Washington.

    Earlier on, Havana shocked the world by jailing 75 dissidents. Amnesty
    International declared them to be “prisoners of conscience.” Raúl
    offered to release them if Washington released the Cuban spies. The
    imprisoned dissidents denounced the exchange declaring they were “not
    spies” but innocent patriots, and unwilling to be part of the extortion.
    They remained in prison for years until Castro banished them and their
    families to Spain, denying them any right to return, a violation of the
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Now some will say the release of Gross shows significant change in Cuba.
    Yet two years ago, the regime was caught smuggling war materials to
    North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions. In Venezuela, Cuban security
    officers are actively engaged in repressing political opposition.
    Recently, a Cuban American was convicted of a $300-million Medicare
    fraud in which the money was deposited in Cuba’s National Bank.

    Now that Alan Gross is home, the question is, What comes next? One thing
    is certain: blackmail and extortion don’t establish a tenable platform
    on which to rebuild United States-Cuba relations.


    Source: Dissidents feel betrayed, abandoned | The Miami Herald –