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May 4, 2015 / 15 Iyar, 5775
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Sen. Leahy Heads Congressional Group to Cuba to Lobby for Gross

Senator Patrick Leahy and six other Congressmen arrived in Cuba this week to lobby for the freedom of Alan Gross, who has been jailed since 2009 on charges of illegally distributing communications equipment.

It is not known if they will be able to visit Gross before they leave today.

A State Department official said that freeing Gross from his 15-year jail sentence is a condition for improving chilly relations between the island nation and the United States. Gross was charged and jailed while on a program financed by the American government to promote democracy.

The United States has rejected Cuba’s demand to negotiate over the imprisonment of five Cuban intelligent agents in return for Gross’ freedom.

The visiting Congressmen are the first legislators to travel to Cuba since President Barack Obama was re-elected.

The other six legislators are Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown, Debbie Stabenow and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern and Maryland’s  Chris Van Hollen.

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One Response to “Sen. Leahy Heads Congressional Group to Cuba to Lobby for Gross”

  1. Anonymous says:

    First, I have always been sympathetic to the Jewish plight. I differ greatly in this though.

    Having just been to Cuba on a Professional Research license from OFAC, while in the process of performing my published schedule of research activities, I had the opportunity to interface with many Cuban citizens on my 10 mile walk from Old Habana to the dive shop in Mirmar. Two things were clear to me at the end of my trip (outside of the actual research findings).

    1) The embargo has failed to achieve its intended goal. The Castro's are exceedingly rich and the populous is under great personal stress.

    2) The Chinese government is making strides (via the Venezuelan Connection) to develop a fraternal relationship with the Cuban government.

    We now have the opportunity to rid the island nation of HUGE potential threats to the US by normalizing relations with this impoverished nation and win the hearts and minds of the Cuban people to effect the changes the Embargo failed for over 50 years to do. Cuba, itself, is a loss to China and the former USSR. The only reason they take the loss on developing ties with Cuba, is its proximity to the US and we keep playing right into their hands.

    As to the issue mentioned here, Mr. Gross was found guilty of violating Cuban law on unauthorized installation of radio frequency equipment (satellite phones) which here in the US (Telecommunications Act of 1996) carries a first time fine of up to $10,000 and prison time. Somewhere I read that a repeat offender can be fined as much as $100,000 and 10 years per offense. This does not include the US also lopping on "terrorist" fines and incarceration as well. I'm not sure why Mr. Gross deserves such preferential treatment here, but Mr. Gross is admittedly guilty of committing this offense in a sovereign nation. The correct and fair thing to do here is to ask Cuba (and for us to also) to agree to be bound by and submit Mr. Gross's case (and our Cuban 5 case) to an international court for disposition. This is the proper diplomatic solution to both issues.In Cuba, Mr. Gross DID do what he is accused of according to every account (even ours) and the Cuban 5 are accused of 1 activist in a murder and 4 conspirators as I have read it. I am also not sure Mr. Gross did not violate the OFAC "Trading with the Enemies" Act in providing technology in Cuba that the Cuban government could readily seize and use against the US. In allowing this behavior, the U.S. would be opening the doors to the importation of technology directly to the Cuban government via the guise of "Helping dissidents" with the seller notifying the Cuban government of the time, dates, and locations of shipment. We need to be really smart here. Does Cuba really still deserve to be the largest threat to the US with the annual expenditures required to enforce the embargo? For me, the answer is clear. Quit with all the personal agenda issues and normalize the relationship. Cuba is a far lessor threat than Venezuela…… they just do not have the oil Venezuela does.

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