WOLA: Time for a New Approach to the Case of Alan Gross Reply

Recommendations for the Administration on the Fourth Anniversary of Gross’s Arrest

By Marc Hanson

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the arrest of Alan Gross in Cuba. Mr. Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor, was implementing a “democracy promotion” program by distributing internet equipment to some groups in the Cuban Jewish community when he was arrested on December 3, 2009. Following his arrest, Mr. Gross was charged with “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state” and sentenced to 15 years in prison, a sentence that he is currently serving in a military hospital. The U.S. government has harshly condemned the arrest, detention, and treatment of Mr. Gross by the Cuban authorities.

There’s no question that Mr. Gross is in a difficult situation. While traveling on a tourist visa, he was actually working under contract for a U.S. government agency. He smuggled equipment into Cuba and sought to conceal his activities from Cuban authorities. While it’s not particularly surprising that he was arrested, other U.S. contractors working on similar “democracy promotion” programs and detained by Cuban authorities had simply been expelled from the country.

Positions on USAID programs on the island have hardened since the arrest. Havana continues to call for their cessation. In the meantime, Washington remains committed to the unwanted development assistance. And Mr. Gross is the casualty of the pitched political battle between the two.

His health has deteriorated, and he is cut off from his family; his wife Judy Gross has poignantly described the pain of their separation. (In recognition of his family’s situation, in September 2011, WOLA urged the Cuban authorities to offer humanitarian parole to Mr. Gross.)

Every year, the State Department announces the anniversary of the detention, calling it “unjustifiable” and asking the Cuban government to release Mr. Gross from prison. State Department press releases have never referenced the role that the United States played in the affair by funding the work that resulted in Mr. Gross’s arrest. Furthermore, the Obama administration has given no indication that it is willing to pursue his release through negotiations. Not surprisingly, the Cuban government does not agree with the United States’ insistence that the imprisonment is unjustified, and it routinely rebuffs the pro forma public calls coming from State Department. However, according to lawyers representing the Gross family, the Cuban government is open to negotiating with the United States about the release of Mr. Gross.

Needless to say, Mr. Gross and his family are unsatisfied…….

Article continues here: Time for a New Approach to the Case of Alan Gross

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