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  • A Cuban Slap on the Wrist: The Alan Gross Case

    The Obama Administration has in recent months made efforts to improve relations with Cuba contingent upon the release of Alan P. Gross. A subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Gross was arrested in December 2009 for making the Internet available to members of Cuba’s minuscule Jewish community. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in March 2011. Two weeks ago, Cuba’s highest tribunal listened to an appeal of his conviction and a plea for release.

    In Cuba, free circulation of ideas is forbidden. The State defines truth, not the individual. Free exchanges of information are viewed as subversive and undermining the authority of the State. A combination of siege mentality and decades-old thought control keep the island locked in the grip of the regime’s repressive informational stranglehold.

    A window for potential clemency in the Gross case opened when Cuba’s highest court took up the Gross case. The court could have voided Gross’s 15-year sentence. Expectations were not high. Cuba is a country where justice is always political, and the judiciary looks over its shoulder for cues from the political hierarchy.

    Fidel and Raul Castro could have used the moment to signal a modest change of heart. Or, as The Washington Post notes, they could have demonstrated that Cuba is “remotely interested in better relations with Washington.” They did not. Cuban paranoia prevailed. The court rejected Gross’ appeal. The Castro brothers opted to continue to punish Gross—now America’s most prominent political prisoner—throwing it in the face of the Obama Administration and the United States.

    Cuba’s aging dictatorship, slumping economy, scattershot economic reforms and resort to acts of repression constitute a desperate spectacle. Cuba has put out the welcome mat for cancer-stricken Hugo Chávez. His health crisis looms large as Venezuela provides an indispensable lifeline of support to the regime. The role U.S. travel and remittances play in propping up the economy is taken as a given.

    In the twilight of its tyranny, the Castro regime is determined to show it can still play hardball with the life and liberty of a single American citizen and show that the Obama Administration is unable to do little more than bluster.

    Former diplomat and democracy expert Elliott Abrams is right: The next step for the Administration to take is to use diplomatic channels to inform the Castro brothers that unless their “clemency” is exercised, the relaxation of travel restrictions will be reversed and greater pressure will be brought on the government of Cuba.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to A Cuban Slap on the Wrist: The Alan Gross Case

    1. Walter Lippmann says:

      If anyone from Cuba had come to the United States and did what Alan Gross did, he would not have received a sentence as LIGHT as the 15 years which Alan Gross received. And Cuba, unlike the United States, has no equivalent of the Helms-Burton and Torricelli laws. Those laws make "regime change" which is to say the overthrow of the Cuban government, the official foreign policy of the United States of America.

      During the time that Mr. Gross's appeal was being considered by Cuba's supreme court, Senators Kerry and Leahy announced they'd lifted their hold on USAID Cuba funding. The Obama administration announced it was going ahead with the same programs which sent Gross to Cuba. Mr. Gross, who has admitted he did what he was charged with and convicted for, has expressed neither regret nor remorse for his actions. He violated Cuban law and was caught. He continues to defend his actions, right up to the present moment.

      What reason would the Cuban authorities have to reduce his sentence?

    2. Ryan says:

      If the US was serious about trying to have Alan Gross released, they easily could have considered releasing the Cuban Five men being held in prison for the last ten years, men who have been deemed political prisoners by international human rights organizations and were tried and convicted in unjust trials in Miami, men who were nonviolently fighting the terrorist activities of ex-Cubans who are trying to overthrow the Cuban government using violence and are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Cuban civilians over the last 30 years. Fifty years of blockade of Cuba has done nothing but strengthen the resolve of the Cuban people against reversal of their revolution's gains. The blockade has done nothing to weaken the popularity of the government, but has done much to cause misery of the Cuban population. If the US truly wants to influence the Cuban people in any way, they should allow free travel to Cuba where people can meet people and exchange ideas freely (instead of curtailing the freedom of US citizens to travel wherever they want freely).

    3. David says:

      The two previous comments to the "Cuban government" as a legitimate government. It is NOT! It came to power by force and by killing everyone that opposed it or had different ideas. Fifty years of killing its people and criminal repression has not done anything to legitimize this oppressive regime. Your facts are reversed, it is the terrorist 'Cuban government" who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Cuban civilians over the last 52 years. It is this tyranny that is responsible for the deaths of others tens of thousands in Africa and Latin America through the support of many so called "insurrections" that preyed on the misinformed people to try to implant the same Cuban failed regimes in other countries. Yes, it is failed regime that has brought misery and hate to the Cuban people and separated millions of families. In Cuba, the people are slaves and the government is extremely unpopular. This dictatorship remains in power only through repression and oppression of its people. The actions of the Cuban exiles and Alan Gross are just actions trying to end the inhumane crimes of humanity by the Castro brothers. Please get informed!

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