By Circles Robinson
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.
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.