• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Alan Gross: American Citizen, Cuban Prisoner

    A man with “big ideas.” That’s Alan Gross, a 62-year-old Maryland resident who had the best of intentions when he brought communication devices to the small Jewish community in Cuba. But those good intentions went horribly wrong when he was detained and placed in Villa Marista, the Cuban state prison, in 2009.

    When Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), went to Cuba as a tourist, he had no idea that it would end in a 15-year prison sentence. Two years later, he remains in prison, and his lawyers say they’re running out of judicial appeals.

    Gross’s crime is nothing more than the purveying of Internet-activating devices to a community of fewer than 1,500 people. To the Cuban government, this is an act of subversion intended to undermine the Castro regime’s stranglehold on the Cuban people.

    Today, Internet restrictions in Cuba are so tight that Cubans cannot access the Internet from their own homes, and walking into an Internet café requires stealth. Once on the Internet, the worldwide Web is censored by the Cuban government—blocking things as simple as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. The Castro regime continues to claim that providing Internet to Cuban citizens is a violation of its government’s sovereignty, only confirming claims of the Cuban government’s oppression.

    But the days of silence in Cuba may be numbered. While the government attempts to squelch the voice of its people through Internet restrictions and limits on freedom of speech, the people are beginning to protest. Shouts of “Down with Fidel!” and “Down with Raul!” can be heard throughout the streets, causing the Cuban government to panic and the Cuban people to continue expressing opposition.

    Gross’ sad situation demonstrates an American problem: the embarrassment of the Obama Administration’s eagerness to make promises of a “new beginning” in U.S.–Cuban relations. Failure to drop charges and free Gross will further emphasize that U.S. relations with Cuba are on tenuous ground.

    The Cuban government’s rigid and unjust treatment of Gross reflects a spirit of hostility toward the U.S. that should trouble even the most liberal of Americans.

    Olivia Snow is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm


    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    19 Responses to Alan Gross: American Citizen, Cuban Prisoner

    1. J. Saavedra says:

      Ms. Snow,

      Your contempt for readers is outstanding.

      "A man with big ideas…a subcontractor for the USAID [that] went to Cuba as a tourist…" Big ideas and a big contract. He won a $6 million dollar from USAID for 'democracy promotion' on the island. Hardly tourism, which is illegal for American citizens anyway.

      "…when he brought communication devices…" If by small communication devices you mean illegally-brought in, unregistered sophisticated satellite equipment, then yes.

      "…to the small Jewish community in Cuba." Cuba's Jewish community has repeatedly denied receiving equipment from Mr. Gross or even knowing of his presence on the island.

      "…lawyers say they’re running out of judicial appeals." Can you cite this? It's certainly not from the Washington Post editorial you linked to.

      Ultimately, Mr. Gross violated Cuban law (whether you agree with it or not), which is why he is not pleading innocence, but asking for a humanitarian release. The facts cannot be omitted. I can forward you the sections of the Cuban legal code under which he has been charged and the sections on which his attorney's appeals are based.

      J. Saavedra

      • Bobbie says:

        J. Saavedra,

        They arrested him and cited him. What damage has his violation caused or does it continue to cause that Mr. Gross couldn't be granted an immediate humanitarian release? The punishment doesn't fit the crime! Even if it's written under Cuban law.

      • dennis mckay says:

        Commissar Saavedra's slavish defense of the Cuban regimes crimes against freedom is typical. Every jot and tittle was closely observed in the Soviet crime wave as well as the Nazi atrocity so dear to his beloved Fidels heart (he carried Mein Kampf in his breast pocket while studying in Madrid.) Jews and Blacks suffer most in the tropical hell that is now Cuba. The Jewish population has dwindled to negligible numbers and blacks endure more vastly more executions,imprisonment and poverty than the white proles and communist nomenclature ruling with an iron boot. Liberal Jews and Black Radicals (the President among them) ignore the horrifying facts of life in Cuba and are unfailing in their support of tyrants everywhere

      • Buzz Cogs says:

        Hi J,
        Glad you are standing up for the Cuban govenrments right to imprison people. Right on! One more question? Do you live in Cuba? Would you want to? Just asking.

    2. Pingback: An American citizen, and a Cuban prisoner | Babalú Blog

    3. oea says:

      The moral of the story, "Learn the laws of the country you are planning to visit", but he maybe knew that and took the chance. There are also some items not reflected in this article or pure lies, such as:

      The Jewish community didn't recognize working with Gross.
      My family and many friends send me emails from home through the internet.
      The Cuban government just want to exchange Gross for its Cuban 5 spies, rotting in US prisons.
      USAID is a covert for our CIA.
      Any foreigner trying to subvert the US government in the US would also end up in prison.

      • Buzz Cogs says:

        Another thing that "flabberghasts" me about people of your ilk is your lack of compassion for a man whose "crime" was to open up communications in a country. Believe me, in the U.S. anyone can get on to the internet and yes, even read the kind of crap you generate. Don't you love the freedom we enjoy in the U.S.even knuckleheads like you can voice an opinion? ;-)

    4. blueiris says:

      to the author, and Bobbie,

      You don't go to one's country and violate their laws and now just say, "oh but you have to let me go, on humanitarian grounds"…
      Just like a lot of people dislike US being in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the incursion of SEALS into Pakistan… and this incident are the same. And before I get pilloried for the parallels, the fact of the matter is–we have not declared war on any of those countries, therefore, we don't have the right of legal entry.. simple really.

      • Bobbie says:

        I respect and understand that. There's always discretion. Can you answer my question?

      • Buzz Cogs says:

        Hi Blue iris,
        The U.S. is fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. That is when people go and blow up innocent people. What Alan Gross's "crime" was allowing people to access the internet..hmm do you see a "bit" of a disparity? Do you live in the U.S.? If you do, I REALLY love your opinion. You enjoy the freedom you have here, which you should and I fully support BUT you want to DENY that freedom to others???!!!! Huh???

    5. Danny says:

      These so called "laws" that a few of these posters are defending were imposed at will by a dictator to keep his hold on power at all costs. It stands to reason then, these posters would also defend the laws imposed by every dictator throughout history. Would you defend hitler's laws too? Different name, different era, but the same difference.

      Please learn a little about how castro took over and destroyed a once great country while having his henchmen kill 10's of thousands of innocent people with his so called "laws", before defending them.

      • Gary says:

        Y'know what? It doesn't matter how Castro took power. His government is internationally recognized; those who go to a foreign country break the laws at their peril, and it just doesn't matter how the government leaders came to power. Mr. Gross lied to the Cubans to get a tourist visa. He lied on his customs form. He did this so he could be well compensated, six million dollars was the figure, by the US government. As for his ill mother, perhaps he should have thought of that before he broke the law and chose to become a felon. I'm not buying the mother anyway. US citizens arrested in foreign countries always say they are sick or their relatives or pets are in hopes of getting an out.

        • Jaybird says:

          "six figures" was the size of the contract. No where in the world does 6 figures equate to $6 million. So we're talking roughly 1/10 (could be as little as 1/60) of what you assume was the amount of money this gentleman would be paid. Additionally, I find it hard to believe he would claim the entirety of the contract. In other words, I'm sure the compensation was far far lower than what you claim above. And yes, the laws are unjust and he should be released. Oppression by any other word is still oppression.

      • Buzz Cogs says:

        Right on Danny. I wonder if any of these Cuban "defenders" would actually live in Cuba. Enjoying their freedom in America and criticizing people who are trying to extend that freedom to others seems more like their MO.

    6. J. Saavedra says:

      Whether you agree with the laws or not, the fact of the matter is that they are there and enforced. Thus, for USAID to send Mr. Gross to Cuba, fully aware that he would be breaking Cuban law is a most irresponsible act and a reason why Senator Kerry and Leahy were up until recently withholding funds from the State Department.

      I don't know how the US believed Mr. Gross was going to get away with this, as the actions of USAID in Cuba are constantly broadcast on a national television program called Razones. That Mr. Gross was unaware that his actions constituted illegality is a possibility, as his wife Judy has gone on record saying that his husband was "not clearly told the risks."

      Either way, anyone who knowingly break's a country's laws should anticipate the consequences of doing so. Whether they are fair or not is irrelevant.

    7. paul says:

      Not surprisingly this program of sending unwitting operatives like Gross into dangerous situations was begun under the Bush administration – what kind of person visits a country 5 times in 9 months on a tourist visa and thinks he's not going to be noticed?!? Of course the Cuban government is going to get suspicious; Gross didn't even speak Spanish and had no idea how to operate in a communist government, and if he did not know what he was doing was illegal than he was nothing more than a fool asking for trouble.

    8. Bobbie says:

      what kind of person visits a country 5 times in 9 months on a tourist visa? Probably someone that felt comfortable enough to trust people with and around him, evident if he wasn't familiar to the language or the government.

    9. We see "The Real Cuba" in this article! The government watches all they do. They have NO freedom at all!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.