By Frank Calzon, email@example.com, Miami Herald OP/ED
Confronted with the barbaric beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the terrorists of the Islamic State, President Obama has rightly changed course and announced a new strategy.
After six lackluster and bewildering years, the president would do well to reappraise his strategy for dealing with Cuba and North Korea, as well. Cuba is still holding hostage a USAID contractor. Alan Gross is ill and has lost 100 pounds in harsh Cuban prisons.
Havana wants “to exchange” Gross for release of Cuban spies in U.S. prisons who have been convicted of “conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, destruction of aircraft, and murder.” They not only infiltrated Florida military bases, but also set up the killing of four Miami men, members of Brothers to the Rescue, who were flying unarmed civilian aircraft over the Florida Straits to spot fleeing Cubans aboard rafts in need of help.
Raúl Castro, now president of Cuba but then head of its military forces, personally gave the order to the pilots of the Cuban MiG aircraft that shot down the small planes. Today, Castro’s proposed deal to swap “prisoners” pits the desire of Gross’ loved ones to see him free and home against Cuban-American families in Miami who sought and got justice for their loved ones murdered in the Florida Straits.
Since his election President Obama has pursued a policy of extending a “hand of friendship” to Cuba and to North Korea, an equally brutal communist regime. Nothing’s changed for the better in Cuba or North Korea.
As Bloomberg News reported a year ago, North Korea even announced its military has been given “final authorization to attack the United States, possibly with nuclear weapons.” With U.S. troops still stationed on the border between North and South Korea that’s no idle threat.
Alan Gross committed no crime. He gave a laptop computer and satellite telephone to a group of Cuban Jews wanting to connect to the Internet and had boarded a plane to head home when he was taken hostage. For weeks after he was “arrested,” no charges were presented. Then a kangaroo court imposed a 15-year prison sentence, of which he’s served four years.
The draconian sentence can be explained only as another Cuban attempt to force U.S. leaders to comply. The Obama administration has bent over backward pleading for Gross’ release, to no avail.
In the past, Havana extorted ransom from the United States to free Cubans captured during the Bay of Pigs invasion; our government had trained and equipped the men. Havana subsequently engineered a series of refugee crises.
Feature continues here: Alan Gross