By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, July 9 — Russia and the United States made a spy swap Friday in Vienna, Austria. The day before, Cuba announced it would gradually release 52 political prisoners in negotiations involving the Catholic Church and Spain.
Both actions show that when there’s a will there’s a way and that seemingly intransigent politicians can actually dialogue effectively when they put pre-conditions aside.
Another similar action that would be a big step towards normalization of relations between the US and Cuba —something that President Obama hinted at during his campaign— would be a prisoner swap with Cuba. This might involve sending US agent Alan Gross (of the defense contractor Development Alternatives, Inc.) back to the US, and Washington finally releasing the Cuban Five.
Gross has been in a Cuban jail since last December and the Cubans imprisoned since September 1998 in the US.
The US government denies Gross was distributing illegal electronic equipment in Cuba saying he was simply on a humanitarian mission, one similar to those his company carries out under contract for the US Defense Department in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Cuban Five —considered heroes on the island— have been in US jails for nearly 12 years. Havana claims they had only infiltrated terrorist organizations that are allowed to operate out of Miami against Cuba, but the US says the men conspired to spy on American military installations.
In light of events over the last two days, a similar swap with Gross and the Cuban Five, allowing all to return to their countries and families, would be a historic sign of goodwill that could lead to the end of a half-century long adversarial relationship between the United States and Cuba.