U.S. contractor has spent five years in a Cuban prison for distributing Internet equipment
U.S. contractor has spent five years in a Cuban prison for distributing
By Nancy Scola December 4 at 1:41 PM
The Obama White House has once again called for Cuba to release
65-year-old Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen who is being described in
widely-distributed press reports as an “American government contractor.”
But on the fifth anniversary of Gross’s imprisonment on a 15-year
sentence, it’s worth remembering the nature of the crimes against Cuba’s
“independence or territorial integrity” with which Gross has been
charged. Gross, working with the U.S. Agency for International
Development, distributed equipment intended to get Jewish Cubans online,
including laptops, Wi-Fi routers and satellite phones.
Those devices look to Cuban authorities to be the tools of subversion.
(They look that way to other governments, too, as the new Freedom House
report on the state of online freedoms in 2014 makes plain.) The
Internet is a particularly fraught question for the Cuban government,
which has long believed that it is part of the country’s technological
sovereignty to limit how Cubans go online.
On Wednesday, the White House said in a statement:
Five years ago today Alan Gross was arrested for his efforts to help
ordinary Cuban citizens have greater access to information through the
Internet. The Administration remains focused on securing Alan’s freedom
from a Cuban prison, and returning him safely to his wife and children,
where he belongs.
We remain deeply concerned for Alan’s health, and reiterate our call for
his release. The Cuban Government’s release of Alan on humanitarian
grounds would remove an impediment to more constructive relations
between the United States and Cuba.
Gross, in should be noted, was in Cuba as part of a controversial
pro-democracy program, and he represented himself not as a U.S.
government contractor but as being in Cuba to do philanthropic work.
But any discussion of Gross’s imprisonment is incomplete without a
recognition that he wasn’t in Cuba distributing guns or tank parts. He
was passing out equipmentso that people could get online, which is
something that the Cuban government considers quite dangerous enough.
Nancy Scola is a reporter who covers the intersections of technology and
public policy, politics, and governance.
Source: U.S. contractor has spent five years in a Cuban prison for
distributing Internet equipment – The Washington Post –