The Washington Post published this editorial titled Havana’s American hostage about the conviction and imprisonment of American Alan Gross in Cuba.
Although I think Alan Gross should be released for humanitarian reasons, I do think he is guilty of the crimes he was convicted of in Cuba. I think his punishment is too harsh and I think he should have been released a long time ago. There is probably a lot more to this story than we know… on the Cuba and on the US side.
See my comments IN CAPS within the text of the original editorial from the Washington Post starting here…
The allegations against Alan P. Gross, the U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor now serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba, are absurd on their face. THEY ARE NOT ALLEGATIONS, HE WAS CONVICTED.Mr. Gross’s so-called crime — furnishing a handful of poor Cuban Jews with equipment to connect to the Internet THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN CUBA PUBLICLY STATED THAT THEY DID NOT KNOW ALAN GROSS — is a garden-variety customs infraction; it hardly merits the trumped-up charge of undermining the regime in Havana. HE WAS CONVICTED OF CRIMES AGAINST THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CUBA. HE BROUGHT IN SATELLITE PHONE EQUIPMENT THAT WAS FUNDED BY USAID, THE AGENCY THAT HAS, FOR MANY YEARS, FUNDED PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS IN ORDER TO DESTABILIZE THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT.
But hopes for Mr. Gross’s release after almost two years in prison dwindled this month when Cuba’s highest court rejected his final appeal. Barring intervention by Raul Castro, Mr. Gross, a 62-year-old Potomac resident who is in poor health, will languish in prison indefinitely HE GOT A 15 YEAR SENTENCE. And any chance for a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations — a thaw that Cuba itself sought — will be shelved for the time being. DOES THE WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL BOARD HAVE OBAMA’S EAR? THEY WRITE THIS AS THOUGH IT IS FACT WHILE TAMPA AND SEVERAL OTHER AIRPORTS HAVE BEEN GIVEN CLEARANCE FOR CHARTER FLIGHTS TO CUBA.
The extreme and unwarranted punishment meted out to Mr. Gross I AGREE THE PUNISHMENT IS EXTRME underscores how little really has changed in Havana since power passed from Fidel Castro to his brother. An initial flurry of reforms — or more accurately, talk about reforms — produced few substantive new freedoms for ordinary Cubans, though many have lost their state jobs. And the government — untested in free and open elections and still intent on sealing off the country from influences beyond Cuban shores — remains fragile and jittery, manifestly afraid of allowing its subjects to interact with the outside world.
The problem for the Castro regime is that without a surge in foreign investment — specifically, American investment — Cuba’s moribund economy will continue to wallow in a trough of its own making. And yet the government knows that an economic opening, no less than a political opening, could sow the seeds of its own demise by admitting new people, ideas and influences of the sort that tend to erode authoritarian systems and rules. AND THIS HAS WHAT TO DO WITH ALAN GROSS?
It is unclear exactly why Havana has chosen to make an example of Mr. Gross, whose efforts to distribute computers and satellite phones to a tiny minority community were ham-handed but hardly threatening, on their own, to the regime. WE DON’T KNOW THIS TO BE A FACT. WE ONLY KNOW THAT MR. GROSS WAS HELPING JEWS IN CUBA BECAUSE WE WERE TOLD THAT BY THE US STATE DEPARTMENT. I’M NOT SURE HIS ATTORNEY MADE THIS CLAIM. Perhaps Raul Castro wanted a hostage to exchange for Cuban agents serving time for espionage in the United States. YES. THIS MAY BE THE CASE AND I ATTRIBUTE MR. GROSS’ IMPRISONMENT MORE TO FIDEL CASTRO RATHER THAN TO RAUL CASTRO. THIS SITUATION HAS FIDEL WRITTEN ALL OVER IT. Or maybe Mr. Gross’s arrest and sentence are a display of pique at USAID’s ongoing democracy-
promotion program in Cuba, whose more or less explicit purpose is to hasten a transition to a freely elected and legitimate government.
Either way, the effect is to freeze whatever modest improvements in relations might have been contemplated in Washington or Havana, including further relaxation in travel, money transfers and communications. OFAC IS APPROVING PEOPLE TO PEOPLE LICENSES TO TRAVEL TO CUBA, MONEY TRANSFERS ARE ALIVE AND WELL AND COMMUNICATIONS ARE PROBABLY THE SAME AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE BEEN BETWEEN HAVANA AND WASHINGTON… LOUSY. And since Cuba needs the United States far more than the United States needs Cuba, Havana, by reverting to its old hard-line instincts, has only shot itself in the foot. DON’T YOU THINK THEY KNOW THIS. I THINK RAUL DEFERRED TO FIDEL ON THIS ONE. RAUL IS LETTING FIDEL FEEL IMPORTANT SINCE THIS IS REALLY THE ONLY THING THAT FIDEL CAN DO THESE DAYS. HE WILL NEVER HAVE A SAY IN CUBAN GOVERNMENT OR THE CUBAN ECONOMY EVER AGAIN.
ALAN GROSS MAY REMAIN IN PRISON UNTIL FIDEL CASTRO IS DEAD OR INCAPACITATED. IF/WHEN ALAN GROSS IS RELEASED, WATCH FOR NEWS ABOUT FIDEL CASTRO’S DEATH.
Ultimately, the blame for the sorry episode lies with the Cuban government, whose hermetic fear of freedom is morally indefensible. I COMPLETELY AGREE. Yet the Obama administration can also be faulted for allowing Cuba policy to drift and for failing to monitor USAID programs whose execution, as Mr. Gross’s case illustrated, has been artless. I COMPLETELY AGREE. At this point, the administration must make clear that no progress in relations will be made until Mr. Gross WRONG. THE US SHOULD NOT LET ONE SITUATION DICTATE US CUBA POLICY — a development worker, not a spy — is released unconditionally.
ROB SEQUIN - PUBLISHER OF HAVANA JOURNAL