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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘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.”

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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