By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, June 18 — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that Cuba should free US agent Alan Gross, detained in Cuba for allegedly distributing illegal satellite equipment to opposition groups.
Gross was arrested last December when he was leaving the country after carrying out his mission for Development Alternatives Inc., a global consulting firm that also works for the US government in countries like Afghanistan.
Clinton said her government would “view favorably” the release of Agent Gross.
For its part, Cuba continues to request that the US release the Cuban Five, held in US prisons for nearly 12 years —allegedly for espionage— who Cuba claims had only infiltrated terrorists groups based in Miami with a long track record of attacks against the island and its’ interests abroad.
Both countries’ governments have said the continued detention of their respective citizens is an obstacle to any normalization in relations.
Cuban President Raul Castro has repeatedly said his government remains open to talking with the United States about improving relations, but the island has called for dialogue based on mutual respect and without pre-conditions, something the US has been unwilling to accept thus far, demanding internal changes in Cuba.
The United States maintains a half century economic blockade on Cuba that has succeeded in crippling the nation’s economy but has not brought on the regime change sought by the policy. Likewise, Cuba is off bounds for ordinary US citizens due to the longstanding travel ban imposed by successive US governments on Americans.
Clinton recently said: “It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do no want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years,” Clinton said.
However, the Secretary of State failed to mention that the blockade is unilaterally imposed by the US. If the Obama administration truly believes that it would be better for the Cuban people to live without the economic stranglehold, the US government could quickly move on its own to end it. No approval of the Cuban government would be required to end the embargo.