Cuba Puts Alan Gross on Stage One

By Circles Robinson

On Havana's Prado Ave. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 3 — Working for Development Alternatives Inc. (an agency known for landing hefty contracts off US foreign policy, especially in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq) will make it hard for Alan Gross to prove he was not aware of the risk involved in his illegal mission in Cuba.

On Friday, the 61-year-old Maryland resident will be in the limelight as Cuba tries him for “Actions Against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State,” considered a very serious offense on the Caribbean island.

Gross was allegedly caught distributing sophisticated communications equipment on a tourist visa.

Development Alternatives sent him to Cuba to “empower civil society” through a program financed by USAID, a main instrument of the US foreign policy agenda that has sought for over a half a century to put an end to the Cuban revolution.

Now Gross finds himself a focus of the lingering cold war waged by the US against Cuba.

Described as a “gadget geek” by his wife Judy, the operative has been detained in Cuba awaiting trial since December 2009.  The prosecution is asking for a 20-year sentence.

Speculation abounds as to whether Gross might then be released for humanitarian reasons with political perks for Cuba, swapped for some or all of the Cuban Five members jailed in the US or imprisoned for possibly the rest of his life or until some future negotiations.

Jesse Jackson Appeals for Gross

On Tuesday former civil rights crusader Jesse Jackson encouraged the Cuban government to release Gross due to poor health in exchange for possibly better relations with the US.  Jackson said he was willing to go to Cuba to make any arrangements.

The Havana Malecon by Sunset. Photo: Caridad

However, a lack of a commitment by the Obama administration for normalized relations with the Raul Castro government and the political winds in the US congress — with hardliner Cuban exile Ileana Ros-Letinen heading the House Foreign Affairs Committee — may make any promise for better relations ring hollow in Havana.

Cuban leaders have been increasingly pessimistic about the Obama presidency and have gone as far as to call its policy towards Cuba just a continuation of past administrations.

Cuba is usually quite thorough with evidence presented in politically sensitive trials and will most likely put not only Gross on trial on Friday but will also spotlight the US government for financing programs to destabilize and undermine foreign governments.

Such trials in Cuba usually take only a few days and sentencing is usually shortly forthcoming.

Havana and Washington do not have formal diplomatic relations but both countries maintain Interests Sections in the respective capitals.

Washington has maintained an economic blockade on Cuba for a half century that has greatly limited the island’s development potential.  It also forbids ordinary US citizens from visiting Cuba, with some exceptions made for Cuban-Americans, journalists and most recently for some academics and participants in cultural exchanges.


7 thoughts on “Cuba Puts Alan Gross on Stage One

  • March 6, 2011 at 9:20 am
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    I would like the United States and Cuba have a good formal relationship. I think it is stupid to view Cuba as a serious threat to the United States. In fact I think Cuba has a lot of positive ideasfor the entire Western Hemisphere!

  • March 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm
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    Circles
    How do you know that the issue is not about Cuban citizens having full access to internet?

    I am sure you have probably seen this video

    http://vimeo.com/19402730

    of the Cuban cyber Police instructing about the new dangers of the internet for the regime and how difficult is for them to find the new satellite devices to connect to it. So judging by this video it seems the regime is very concerned about Cuban citizen having full uncontrolled access to the internet.

    Like you I wish Cubans had the same access we do. The excuse they used before was that they had very small and expensive bandwidth thru a satellite and therefore could not give access to people. From what I am reading. It looks like they are taking away internet access to many people even as they have increase internet capacity substantially.

  • March 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm
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    Julio, I think the issue here is not about Cubans having access to Internet, which I totally support. Instead it is about a US citizen with a tourist visa accused of working illegally in Cuba for a hostile foreign government program seeking regime change. Such work is usually severely punished in just about any country, including the United States. Circles

  • March 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm
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    Circles

    Question for you about this

    “spotlight the US government for financing programs to destabilize and undermine foreign governments.”

    Reading your statement we can conclude that the Cuban regime believe that providing uncensored Internet to a small group of people can destabilize the Cuban government?
    Do they considered themselves so weak?

    If that statement is accurate then you will agree with me that we could infer from this that the Cuban regime is illegitimate. Since it is in power by restricting sources of information to Cubans other than their own. In other words totalitarianism and authoritarianism.

    Can you support a regime like that in good conscience?

    If they were strong no matter what other information Cuban citizen read on the internet they would still get their support. But it seems obvious they are afraid what Cuban may learn about the world and about themselves on the internet or maybe afraid of people being able to organize themselves on their own without interference from the regime.

  • March 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm
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    Good article. The “beat goes on” of finger pointing and the blame game! Like little kids on a school playground the U.S. and Cuba continue to play the old bully game. The Alan Gross case will not be solved in a way that will bring the U.S. and Cuba closer to mending its differences as long as it is played out before the international community! In that arena face saving is supreme. A potential solution allowing both the U.S. and Cuba to look like “winners” – Cuba – convict Gross and sentence him to 20 years as charged! Have him serve a few month of his sentence – then release him on humanitarian grounds (not pushing in the public media for an exchange for one or more of the Cuban Five in exchange for his release as that makes the Obama administration look weak and as it is caving in to a “hostage” trade). Once he is released, “under the table” Cuba should quietly seek the release of one of the Cuban Five as a similar humanitarian gesture thus avoiding the appearence of a “prisoner trade”. Should the U.S. not respond then Cuba has won a moral victory and can go public with its effort that Cuba sought to do that which was ethical and right. Putting Gross in prison for 20 years and leaving it at that will gain nothing for either side.

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