Tomorrow he will spend his fourth Christmas in a Cuban jail.
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*
HAVANA TIMES — Alan Gross should be released soon and unilaterally. Not because he’s innocent or because he’s some martyr of democracy, because obviously he’s not.
His case involves an agent employed by a hostile foreign government to engage in illegal operations in Cuba. His actions were in line with a US law (the embargo) whose repudiation today is one of the issues with the greatest consensus around the globe.
This was within the framework of an interventionist program that as a Cuban I oppose, because I reject everything that turns the US or any other foreign country into a domestic political actor beyond what is essential in this globalized and asymmetric world.
Speaking directly, Alan Gross should be released because that would be a very low cost but high impact gesture for generating understanding with the United States. This is because Cuba desperately needs a normal access to the US market, tourists and capital to boost its faltering economy.
Cuba also needs a normal political relationship with the US. Though this would have all the contradictions and conflicts that are expected of such an unequal relationship, it needs open channels for communications and negotiations.
If to achieve this, to begin exchanging steps in the lukewarm minuet proposed by Obama in his second term, Mr. Gross will have to be taken to the airport. It’s time to do so.
To raise this issue to the level of the five imprisoned spies (The Cuban Five) seems a serious mistake, and also a sign of political immaturity. There’s no comparison between a network of spies, some of whom have been credited with the loss of human lives, and the case of Alan Gross.
This is especially when we know that these Cuban agents, who have lost significant portions of their lives locked up, were political pieces sacrificed by Fidel Castro to maintain policies to keep alive his exhausting nationalist campaign after the return of Elian Gonzalez.
Cuba has spies imprisoned in the US with many more stripes and records than the “five heroes in the empire” about which nothing is said, simply because in the world of espionage the rule is to look to the side and find surreptitious solutions.
This isn’t a personal position. I think the American government would be doing itself a favor and one for all of us if it were to take steps towards returning the Cuban Five to the island. But it’s also time that the Cuban government understand that their relationship with the US is asymmetric.
Faced with this asymmetry, what is required is an intelligent policy that sets aside the typical bravado of a schoolyard bully to make way for a constructive and negotiated policy about the real reasons behind the dispute.
Again, Cuba requires access to the US market and to guarantee its national integrity through negotiations, which today are exposed to great fragility given in its dependence on Venezuelan oil, and the militarization and internal repression at home.
If it is needed to release Alan Gross to obtain a nation whose sovereignty rests in the national consensus, on the prosperity of its inhabitants, and the full dignity of its people, then Cuban leaders should put aside their neutered machismo, and release him.
I repeat: Having Alan Gross in prison is more costly and less promising than releasing him. Keeping him locked up is to continue pursuing the bad politics of the anti-imperialist show. Good politics suggests taking him to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport tomorrow.
(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.com.