By Dawn Gable
HAVANA TIMES — The wife of Alan Gross, USAID subcontractor who on Tuesday marked his fourth year in a Cuban prison, held a rally outside the White House after delivering a letter to the President from her husband. The letter, and Judy’s speech to the crowd of about 150, call on Obama to get personally involved and to do “whatever it takes” to secure Alan’s release.
Mrs. Gross rejected the State Department statement yesterday calling on the Cuban Government to “release Alan Gross immediately and unconditionally” saying that this tact has gotten them nowhere for the past four years and if the U.S. government does not drop the, “unconditionally, this will be a death sentence for Alan… Please Mr. President don’t leave Alan to die in Cuba.”
Mr. Gross’s letter expressed understanding that the administration has other pressing business, but Alan reminded the President that he is “waiting in real time” for the president to take “meaningful and decisive steps.” Playing on a slogan from Obama’s first campaign, he wrote, “I’m all fired up and ready to come home.”
He pointed out to the president that the thousands of men and women serving their country around the world “must not doubt” that if they get into trouble abroad that their government has their back; the administration’s indifference to his plight tells them otherwise.
In an impromptu Q&A, Judy initially deflected when the idea of a swap for the Cuban agents serving long sentences in U.S. prisons (known as the Cuban 5*) was brought up. However, when asked if she has thought about reaching out to the wives of those Cuban prisoners, she said that it was something she is considering.
As Judy described the hardships she and her husband have endured over the last four years, it was hard to not make the comparison to the hardships endured by the Cuban anti-terrorism agents and their families: weight loss, relatives suffering illness and death, missing out on key moments in their children’s lives, lock down, etc.
One important difference is that, Judy has been able to visit Alan periodically. She said, “The Cubans are very generous with my visits.” Meanwhile, for the past 15 years the U.S. government has denied Adriana Pérez’s requests to visit her husband Gerardo Hernandez who serving a life sentence without parole.
But the International Committee to Free the Cuban Five, told Havana Times that while they prefer not to compare the two cases, they believe that both can be resolved if the U.S. government is willing to negotiate a humanitarian gesture-for-gesture based in mutual respect.
“The main focus of our campaign has been to ask President Obama to find a humanitarian solution…we believe [Gross’s] family has made a wise decision to focus on Obama instead of the Cuban government. It is President Obama who has the key to solve both cases.”
This week has seen a flurry of messages to the President on Gross’s behalf. Senator Leahy drafted a letter to the president a letter, signed by nearly half of the Senate, asking the president to get personally involved. Earlier in the year, Leahy led a bicameral delegation to Cuba where they met with President Raul Castro, who is taking Gross’s case personally, according to one Congressman who was present.
Meanwhile a hand-full of Senators, led by the usual suspects Rubio and Menedez, who still will not admit that the embargo against Cuba has not worked after 50 years, wrote the President encouraging him to stick with the demand for “unconditional” release, disregarding Judy and Alan’s plea.
Representative John Delaney of Maryland’s 6th district along with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray stood with Judy Gross in front of the White House and called on the president to ensure Alan’s return. “Are we doing enough?” Delany asked. “He is not home, so no, it’s not enough.”
*Rene González, of the Cuban 5 finished his sentence and returned to Cuba recently. Fernando Gonzalez Llort is due to be paroled February 2014. Antonio Guerrero’s sentence ends September 18, 2017 and Ramón Labañino’s on October 30, 2024—just two months before Alan Gross will finish his sentence in December 2024. Thus, leaving only Gerardo Hernández to spend the rest of his natural life in prison.