Monday, October 25, 2010

Wife of American Held in Cuba Pleads for His Release and Apologizes to Castro

Wife of American Held in Cuba Pleads for His Release and Apologizes to
Published: October 24, 2010

WASHINGTON — The wife of an American contractor detained in Cuba nearly
a year ago has sent a letter to President Raúl Castro, apologizing for
her husband's actions and pleading for his release.

"To the extent his work may have offended you or your government," Judy
Gross wrote, referring to her husband, Alan P. Gross, "he and I are
genuinely remorseful."

Excerpts of the letter, which was dated Aug. 4, were first reported on
Sunday by Reuters. A lawyer who represents Mrs. Gross said she wanted
news of the letter to coincide with debates about Cuba — Latin America's
last Communist outpost — that are scheduled to begin Monday at the
United Nations and in the European Union.

In a vote that has become an annual ritual at the United Nations, most
members, except for a handful of the United States' closest allies, are
expected to adopt a resolution condemning Washington's four-decade
embargo against Cuba.

Meanwhile, the European Union is scheduled to take up debate of its
so-called common position on Cuba, which calls on member nations to urge
Cuba to embark on "a process of transition to pluralistic democracy."

Mr. Gross's detention is expected to loom large over both debates. A
61-year-old diabetic and the father of two, he was detained last
December while traveling in Cuba as part of a semi-covert program of the
United States Agency for International Development, the foreign
assistance arm of the State Department, aimed at undermining the Cuban

American officials have acknowledged that Mr. Gross entered Cuba without
the proper visa, and have said he was distributing satellite telephones
to religious dissidents.

The Cuban authorities have said Mr. Gross's activities amounted to
espionage, though they have yet to file formal charges against him,
raising questions about their motives for detaining him.

In an effort to win Mr. Gross's release, administration officials and
Congressional aides said Usaid had quietly changed the way it
administers its programs in Cuba, shifting the focus from those intent
on "regime change" to those that support educational exchanges and the
growth of small businesses.

The officials said the United States had enlisted many Latin American
heads of state to advocate on behalf of Mr. Gross. Washington's top
envoy to Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela, discussed Mr. Gross's
detention with Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, at a meeting in

And in recent months, the United States allowed the wife of a convicted
Cuban spy, Gerardo Hernández, to visit her husband in prison for the
first time since his arrest 12 years ago.

In recent months, Cuba allowed Mrs. Gross and one of her daughters to
visit Mr. Gross in the Havana military medical facility where he is held
because of serious health problems.

In an interview last week, Havana's representative in Washington, Jorge
Bolaños, criticized the United States for continuing to uphold its
embargo despite President Obama's criticism of the policy during his
presidential campaign.

"I see Alan Gross as one episode," Mr. Bolaños said. "I don't think his
detention should be used to justify a failed policy that has existed for

In her plea to Mr. Castro, according to the Reuters report, Mrs. Gross
said that Cuba and the United States were using her husband as a "pawn."

"I recognize today that the Cuban government may not like the type of
work that Alan was doing in Cuba," she wrote. "But I want you to know
that Alan loves the people of Cuba, and he only wanted to help them."

She added, "He never intended them, or your government, any harm."

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