Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cuba: Imprisoned US Contractor Alan Gross, 64, Serving 15 Years in Prison Simply Because He Worked for the Obama Administration

According to The Latin American Tribune, Edward Alex Lee, the US acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs at the US Department of State (to whom I'm not related), held a new round of talks with Cuban officials and met with Alan Gross, 64, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Havana after being convicted of subversion while working on a US Agency for International Development (USAID) contract for a US institutional contractor.

Lee, the US acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told reporters that he saw Gross, though he declined to give details, potentially because what was exchanged between the two men may have not reflected well on the Obama Administration. 

COMMENT: If I were in Alan Gross' shoes, the last person I would want to see is someone representing the Obama Administration, because it was USAID itself that put Gross in prison for 15 years.

Unfortunately for Alan, a good number of representatives of the federal government (e.g., Members of Congress and now DAS Lee have visited the imprisoned American to no avail. He is still in prison largely because the Obama Administration is unwilling to release Cuban spies doing time in the US.

The way I see it, it was the Obama Administration whose actions got Alan Gross thrown into a Cuban prison for 15 years and it should be the Obama Administration that gets him home to his family because it was the executive branch that got him thrown into prison to begin with.

As is well known, throughout US history, prisoner exchanges are a relatively productive way of sparing prisoners on both sides a long-term, unpleasant and debilitating experience, particularly when, in Alan Gross' case, he did nothing but perform what he was contractually asked to do by USAID.

For those of our readers are unfamiliar with Alan's plight, please go to:

Actually, if anyone is to blame, it is the senior management of USAID that chose to send Gross to Havana, obviously without assessing the threat to Alan if he were to be arrested, which is exactly what happened.

Last month, Cuba said it was prepared for an “immediate” dialogue with Washington to find a solution to the Gross situation – but only on a “reciprocal basis,” meaning that any negotiations would have to include the case of the Cuban agents jailed in the United States for espionage.

Alan Gross, traveled to Cuba on behalf of a Maryland company that won a contract from the US Agency for International Development to expand Internet access and the flow of information on the Communist-ruled island.

Cuban authorities arrested him in 2009 in possession of communications equipment.

Havana said he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion and in an August 2012 ruling, Cuba’s highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on the American.

Cuba has hinted that it would release Gross in exchange for the return of the four members of the “Cuban Five” intelligence agents who remain jailed in the United States.

Unfortunately, for Alan, it was the Obama Administration that sent him into Harm's Way and it should be President Obama that should agree to a prisoner exchange.

For all of our readers, if you believe that the Obama Administration is culpable in this case, please sign Alan's petition at:

For our non-US readers, please sign the petition so as to convey that Alan's plight is a global issue worthy of immediate correction.

One small footnote: Alan Gross was held in a Cuban prison for 14 months without ever being charged, so the 15-year "clock" is extended an additional 14 months.