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March 29, 2015 / 9 Nisan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

Alan Gross to get $3.2M Compensation

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Alan Gross, the Jewish contractor freed last week from Cuba, will get $3.2 million in compensation for his five years in prison, Reuters reports.

Gross was arrested and jailed in Cuba while working on a USAid-financed project for company DAI. Cuban authorities sentenced him to 15 years in prison for providing satellite internet equipment to Jews in Cuba.

He and his wife sued DAI and the US government in 2012 for gross negligence.

Gross was freed last week in a prisoner swap as part of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba. He thanked the Jewish community, among others, for its efforts on his behalf during his years in jail.

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The president further exacerbated that anger by saying he was “ending an outdated approach that had failed to advance U.S. interests for decades… The previous approach failed to promote change, and it’s failed to empower or engage the Cuban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.

Cuba: Rewarding Bad Behavior

Thursday, December 18th, 2014
That would be our POTUS-in-Chief, pulling his

self-defined “right thing to do” out of nowhere (some would make a more anatomical allusion) at a time when Cuba has been busy doing exactly the wrong thing.

First, let us at least rejoice that Alan Gross has been released.  We can be glad for his sake that he is back home with his family.

The rest of the news is not so good.  Obama traded three Cuban spies for Gross and a U.S. intelligence agent, and will open up financial and banking relations to Cuba, besides authorizing travel and reopening a U.S. embassy in Havana:

American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years, and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap, but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”

In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it.

The concern here is only partly the specific measures taken, however.  The context in which they are being taken is of even greater concern.

Context

Russian officials made two major announcements in the last six months: that Moscow would reopen the sprawling Cold War-era listening post near Havana, at Lourdes; and that Russian forces, now including strategic bombers (an unprecedented feature), would resume operating from Cuba to conduct patrols targeting the United States.

Russia has, in fact, been operating intelligence collection ships from Cuba and sending them on patrols off the southeastern U.S. coast.

Meanwhile, Cuba continues to engage in an illicit arms trade with North Korea, which facilitates the proliferation of arms to terrorist groups and bad regimes round the world.  (See here and here as well.)

Cuba also continues to be deeply involved in the repressions inflicted by Central America’s socialist caudillos on the people of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.  For more than half a century, Cuba has been one of the chief security problems of Latin America.

In the last five years, the nexus between the Castroites and the chavistas (Chavez, his successor Maduro, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega) has expanded to include – increasingly overtly – Iran.  Cuba’s trade relations with Iran – always, for such nations, largely a cover for arms and intelligence cooperation – have been growing rapidly in the last several years.  (The more warehouses and heavy machinery are ostensibly involved in the commercial trade, the more military-strategic import it typically has.  The transportation sector is one of the best covers for military cooperation.)

China, moreover, has been cultivating increased military as well as trade ties with Cuba in the last few years (see here and here as well), and is reported to have intelligence operatives manning a Cuban listening post in Bejucal.

These are some of the big, important things that have been going on with Cuba in the time period that ought to affect our decisions about Cuba.  If we’re going to go down the path of normalizing relations with Cuba, each and every one of these things should be on the table.   The payoff from pursuing this course should be – explicitly, and up front – a set of verifiable commitments from Cuba to not continue in these activities which are prejudicial to the United States and the security of the Western hemisphere.

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/us-lawmakers-meet-with-cubas-american-jewish-prisoner-alan-gross/2014/05/06/

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