Free Alan Gross
04/29/2012 - 14:35
Douglas Bloomfield

The Jewish and interfaith communities of Greater Washington on Monday will commemorate the 63d birthday of Alan Gross, an American jailed on charges connected to bringing computer equipment into Cuba for the Jewish community there.  They will mark the occasion at noon on April 30 at their weekly vigil in front of the Cuban Interest Section at the Swiss Embassy on 16th Street in Washington.

Gross has been imprisoned since December 2009 on charges of bringing in electronic equipment without required Cuban government permits.  He is ailing and being held in a prison ward at a hospital.

He was working under a US Agency for International Development subcontract to promote democracy in Cuba by bringing computer and communications equipment for the Jewish community there.  He made five trips there in 2009, often accompanying Jewish federation missions from the United States. 

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, unusually harsh considering that the Cuban government a year earlier had lifted its ban on the ownership of computers and mobile phones.

He is in poor health and his mother suffers from inoperable lung cancer, but Cuban authorities have refused even to let him visit her briefly -- something the United States did do for a Cuban espionage agent who went home briefly this month to visit his terminally ill brother and has since returned to Florida.

I recently returned from a trip Cuba on a people-to-people exchange tour to meet with members of Jewish communities in several cities and to learn about the country.

It seems clear to me that Gross is not being held for what may actually be a minor infraction but is a hostage held by the Castro government.  It was made clear to me on my visit that that the Cuban government would like to swap Gross for the Cuban Five, a group of agents sent by their government to spy on the Cuban-American community and the American government and convicted on espionage and conspiracy charges.  One has been paroled but cannot leave the United Sates; the other four are still in prison.

The biggest obstacles to a prisoner swap and a major reason Alan Gross is unlikely to come home any time soon can be found in the strident opposition from hardline anti-Castro Cuban-Americans, most notably their congressional leadership in the Florida Republican delegation: Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Cuban-born Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Read my report here.

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I am sure that when Alan Grossman got off the plane, was in customs and asked what he had to declare said, "Hi, I'm your friendly US AID contractor. I am bringing in sophisticated electronic communications equipment so "Uncle Sam" "The Friendly Imperialist" can engage in secret communication with those who want to over though your government" every time he entered Cuba. Since Nixon was vice president and recommended Castro's over through little has changed regardless of what party was in power. The cold war against Cuba continues with the so called, Cuban Democracy Act. They were unable to bring "Democracy" to Vietnam although it took 50,000 American lives and 1,000,000 Vietnamese lives before Nixon discovered that fact. The number of American dead due to the Cuban Revolution can be counted on two hands. Yet the Blockade continues because Castro had the nerve to lead a Socialist revolution right under the nose of the most powerful and agressive nation in the world.

Leaders of the Jewish community in Havana have contradicted US versions of Alan Gross's relationship with them: they have never met him in spite of 5 visits to Cuba in 2009.
Adela Dworin, president of the Beth Shalom Temple rejects Washington's statements, saying 'the saddest part is that they are trying to involve the Jewish community in Cuba which has nothing to do with this.'
Mayra Levy, speaker of the Sephardic Hebraic Centre, declared she didn't know Gross nor had he ever been to her institution.

Salim Lamrani, Counterpunch.

The USA is using the Jewish community for its own purposes, fabricating events in order to undermine socialism.

You are totally right. Alan Gross is an innocent man taken as a hostage for a prisoners swap.

I just came back from Cuba few weeks ago, and I did something worse than Alan Gross did since I am the director of an institution considered “terrorist” by the Cuban press and I took a laptop to Havana for a anti Castro dissident sent by people blamed as “terrorists” and “CIA high ranking officers” and they just interrogated me for a couple of hours, and took away the laptop and my American passport but I always stayed in the hotel. After that I moved freely throughout Cuba until I took an airplane ticket to come back to USA.

For SHAME!!!! Jewish values are completely in alignment with the Senators and Representative you mention. The 5 spies were convicted for a crime in a court of law with appropriate representation. One recently released on parole was allowed to return to Cuba to visit a sick relative. Not so with Alan Gross, who was convicted in a kangaroo court to a ridiculous sentence for a crime not committed!!! He has not been allowed a temporary release to visit sick loved ones. He is a pawn in the game!!!! Shame on you for trying to pit two allied communities with shared values against each other!!!

You downplay the illegality of Alan Gross's actions and exaggerate the basis of conviction of the Cuban 5, therefore misleading your readers about the reasonableness of an exchange.

The project for which Alan received a $600,000 subcontract was part of USAID's regime change program and therefore explicitly in violation of long established Cuban law. Please read the AP story based on Alan's own reports. He was either naive and used by USAID/Development Alternatives Inc. or is obfuscating about his actions.

The equipment Alan delivered creates a wifi zone that could be used by anyone in the vicinity, not just the ostensible recipients in the Jewish community. In addition, on his last trip he was bringing sim cards available only to military and intelligence agencies that hide the location of the transmitter.

He could have been released early on had the US taken responsibility for his actions and pledged to end similar covert efforts. After the quick trade of Russian sleeper agents for convicted spies held by Moscow, the stakes were raised to a prisoner exchange.

The White House needs to find the political courage to engage in serious negotiation with Cuba. Obama won't lose anyone in Florida who isn't already opposed to him for his opening of travel to Cuba and he will gain support elsewhere.

For a longer analysis, see

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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