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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Alan Gross’

Obama Negotiated with Cuba ‘Behind Everyone’s Back,’ Lawmakers Charge

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama negotiated with Cuba to restore diplomatic relations “behind everyone’s back,” lawmakers charged Wednesday night after he announced the restoration of full diplomatic ties with the island nation.

News agencies in the United States buzzed on Thursday with the details of how Obama accomplished that task in a personal 45-minute telephone call on Tuesday with President Raul Castro. The call followed 18 months of secret talks between the White House and Cuban officials that also involved the highest levels of the Vatican – and Pope Francis himself.

As part of the deal, USAID worker Alan Gross returned from Cuba on a U.S. government 757 aircraft after five years in custody, along with a U.S. intelligence agent who had spent the last 20 years of a life term in prison.

The move, which was carried out without any knowledge of Congressional lawmakers on either side of the aisle, inflamed already hot tempers about Obama’s penchant for doing things on his own. Media commentators and some legislators on Thursday referred to the president as “King Obama.”

The president further exacerbated that anger by saying he was “ending an outdated approach that had failed to advance U.S. interests for decades… The previous approach failed to promote change, and it’s failed to empower or engage the Cuban people,” he said. “It’s time to cut loose the shackles of the past and reach for a new and better future with this country.”

Democratic lawmakers expressed shock and disappointment that the president had spent 18 months negotiating with an “enemy, Communist regime” without even consulting with any other legislator from his own party.

Members of the Cuban immigrant community were incensed that Obama had cut through more than half a century of sanctions and provided a “shot in the arm” to the repressive regime they fled for its brutality.

Castro said the 52-year embargo had caused enormous human and economic damage. He added there was still disagreement on many issues, including that of foreign policy.

Following the announcement, however, the Dow Jones Industrial Average leaped, possibly in response. Media commentators began discussing what the economic implications would be if Congress could not control corporate financial and production flow in and out of Cuba.

Alan Gross Credits Jewish Efforts for His Release From Cuba [video]

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Newly released from prison in Cuba, Alan Gross thanked his wife, his lawyer, the Jewish community, President Obama and numerous others in helping secure his freedom.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Washington, Gross opened his statement with a Hanukkah greeting and a thank you to the president.

“Chag sameach,” he said. “What a blessing to be a citizen of the United States of America. Thank you President Obama for everything you have done today.”

He credited the advocacy by his wife of 44 years, Judy Gross, and his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, for getting him out of prison. He also thanked the Jewish community.

“To the Washington Jewish community, Ron Halber in particular and his staff at the Jewish Community Relations Council, all of the executive directors, staff and volunteers of participating JCRCs, federations, synagogues, schools, and other Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations nationwide, God bless you and thank you,” Gross said. “It was crucial to my survival knowing that I was not forgotten. Your prayers and actions have been comforting, reassuring, and sustaining.”

In a deal that American officials said was technically separate from Gross’ release, the United States and Cuba agreed to exchange the three remaining incarcerated members of the “Cuban Five,” a Florida-based spy ring, for an American spy held in Cuba for 20 years and whose identity remains a secret.

It came, too, as the United States and Cuba agreed to re-establish full diplomatic ties that were severed in early 1961.

Gross, a Jewish-American who had been in detention in Cuba for five years of a 15-year term for crimes against the state, originally went to the island nation to do contract work for the U.S. government and help connect Cuban Jews to the outside world.

He suffered health problems during his imprisonment, and in his statement referenced his significant weight loss and the loss of some teeth.

“Ultimately, the decision to arrange for and secure my release was made in the Oval Office. To President Obama and the NSC staff, thank you,” Gross said. “A judicious lesson that I have learned from this experience is that freedom is not free.”

Gross expressed fondness for the Cuban people, saying they were not responsible for his ordeal and that he is pained “to see them treated so unjustly as one consequence of two governments’ mutually belligerent policies.”

He hailed Obama’s announcement that Havana and Washington now would resume diplomatic relations.

Alan Gross Freed From Cuban Jail

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

After 5 years in jail, Cuba has released Alan Gross. His release was part of a prisoner exchange between Cuba and the U.S.

AP reports that this is part of normalizing full diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, and the US will open an embassy in Havana in a few months.

From Wikipedia:

Alan Phillip Gross is a U.S. international development professional.

In December 2009 he was arrested while in Cuba working as a U.S. government subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of a program funded under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.

He was prosecuted in 2011 after being accused of crimes against the Cuban state for bringing satellite phones and computer equipment (to members of Cuba’s Jewish community) without the permit required under Cuban law.

After being accused of working for American intelligence services in January 2010, he was ultimately convicted for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state” in March 2011. He was released from Cuban prison on December 17, 2014.

Fears Grow that Alan Gross Will Die in Jail in Cuba

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

American-Jewish contractor Alan Gross completed his fifth year in prison in Cuba on Tuesday, one-third of a 15-year prison term for “crimes against the state, and his wife fears he will not survive much longer.

Gross, 65, of Potomac, Md., was leaving Cuba when he was arrested in December 2009 for setting up Internet access for the Jewish community there as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement issued Tuesday evening that Gross continues to suffer an “unjustified imprisonment in difficult conditions in Cuba.”

“We reiterate our call on the Cuban government, echoing foreign leaders and even Cuba’s allies, to release Alan Gross immediately,” Harf said in a statement.

Gross reportedly is in ill health and has lost more than 100 pounds since his incarceration, and has suffered from painful arthritis.

Gross’ wife Judy said in a statement released Wednesday that “Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end.”

Cuba has expressed an interest in negotiating a trade of Gross for three Cubans who are jailed in the United States on espionage charges, an idea which the Obama administration has rejected.

In August, Gross said he could no longer take life in prison and reportedly said goodbye to his family.

US Lawmakers Meet with Cuba’s American Jewish Prisoner, Alan Gross

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Four U.S. lawmakers met in Cuba on Monday with imprisoned American Jewish hostage Alan Gross. The legislators visited the jailed social worker at a prison hospital due to his medical condition, which is precarious.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while visiting Cuba to provide internet access for the Jewish community there. According to a report posted by the Havana Times he was employed at the time by Development Alternatives, Inc., and contracted by USAID, an American government agency.

Gross was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the integrity of the State.” Cuban authorities said he was caught “carrying sophisticated telecommunications equipment prohibited on the island, working for a well-funded, secret USAID program designed to topple the Cuban government.”

Speaking to reporters in Havana following their visit, delegation leader U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said in a brief statement, “It is in the interests of both our countries to start negotiations, not just talks. It is time for both countries to make a serious commitment to enter into negotiations without preconditions.”

For years, Cuban leader Raul Castro has been trying to persuade the Obama White House to enter negotiations to free the “Cuban Five” — spies who were caught and jailed for espionage in the United States in 1998. Two have already been released, having served their terms. One is serving a double life sentence. President Barack Obama has reportedly shown no inclination to discuss the matter with Cuban officials, and no apparent interest in a swap deal for Alan Gross.

(Likewise Obama has had no interest in discussing a deal to commute the sentence of American-Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to time served. After having agreed to a plea bargain, Pollard was nevertheless sent to prison on a life term in 1987 on a single count of passing information to an ally. Often jailed under harsh conditions at the prison where he is held in North Carolina he is presently in extremely frail health. Hundreds of appeals to U.S. presidents through the decades have left all unmoved — including Obama, who has been approached by the current Israeli government.)

U.S. Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Emanuel Clever (D-MI) also took part in the delegation to Cuba. They met with Alan Gross for 90 minutes, according to the report. The delegation reportedly then met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

There have been no diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana in more than half a century. But Gross, age 65, has vowed that by the end of this year, he is determined to return home to the United States, either “dead or alive.”

Alan Gross Suspends Hunger Strike at Mother’s Urging

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Alan Gross suspended his hunger strike Friday after a week at the behest of his elderly mother.

“Alan’s mother asked him to stop the fast,” Jill Zuckman, the spokeswoman of the family of the State Department subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba, told JTA. “He agreed to do that.”

Gross, who launched his fast April 3, told his lawyer in a weekly call on Friday that he planned further protest actions, Zuckman said, although he did not elaborate.

Gross’ mother, who is suffering from cancer, turns 92 on Tuesday, which is also the first day of Passover.

Gross, 64, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba. The Maryland resident is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”

Gross says he has lost more than 100 pounds since his imprisonment and suffers from painful arthritis. He reportedly leaves his shared cell once a day for one hour.

When Gross launched his hunger strike, he said it was to protest inaction by both the Cuban and U.S. governments. “Once again, I am calling on President Obama to get personally involved in ending this stand-off so that I can return home to my wife and daughters,” he said in a statement at the time.

Alan Gross Goes on Hunger Strike in Cuba

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

American-Jewish contractor Alan Gross has gone on a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment in a Cuban jail and the lack of American assistance.

“I began a fast on April 3rd in protest of the treatment to which I am subjected by the governments of Cuba and the United States,” Gross said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal. Once again, I am calling on President Obama to get personally involved in ending this stand-off so that I can return home to my wife and daughters,” Gross said.

Gross, 64, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba. The Maryland resident is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”

Gross says he has lost 100 pounds since his imprisonment and suffers from painful arthritis. He reportedly leaves his shared cell once a day for one hour.

In a letter sent in December 2013, Gross asked President Obama to personally help secure his release.

The Cuban government has indicated that it wants the United States to allow the return to Cuba of five spies in prison or on probation in the U.S. in return for negotiations on Gross.

Gross’s wife, Judy, said in a statement that she fears her husband will not be able to endure his confinement much longer. “I’ve been begging our government for more than four years to bring Alan home,” said Judy Gross. “I’m worried sick about Alan’s health, and I don’t think he can survive much more of this.”

Kerry said Tuesday that he had spoken to the Gross family a month ago to discuss the status of efforts to free Gross. ”We are very, very focused on trying to get Alan Gross out of there, his treatment is inhumane,” Kerry said while testifying in the Senate.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/alan-gross-goes-on-hunger-strike-in-cuba/2014/04/08/

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