Posted on Monday, 11.26.12
Cuba hoping to benefit from possible Gross release
BY JAIME SUCHLICKI
Gen. Raúl Castro's regime is considering a pardon for Alan Gross, the
American USAID subcontractor arrested in Cuba in December 2009 and
sentenced to 15 years in jail for distributing computers to the Jewish
community in the island.
This calculated olive branch to the just-reelected Obama administration
has two objectives. First, to obtain U.S. concessions in the area of
travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba. Second, to obtain the release of four
Cuban spies, serving sentences in U.S. jails for espionage activities on
behalf of the Castro government.
Some within the Castro regime are arguing that the Obama administration
will be pushed to offer major concessions if Cuba frees Gross. The
reasons: there is a pent-up demand for travel to Cuba; American tourists
will bring much needed dollars; and Cuba's efficient security apparatus
could control American tourists, primarily interested in visiting Cuban
beaches and less concerned about subverting the Communist regime.
Most argue that American tourists will have little impact, other than
economic. They point out that over the past several years hundreds of
thousands of Canadian, Europeans and Latin American tourists have
visited the island. There have been no major political changes. Money
from tourists, furthermore, has been flowing into businesses owned by
the Castro government and the Cuban military, thus strengthening state
The recent migration law enacted by Cuba that eases travel for Cubans to
visit the United States and other countries is also entering into Gen.
Castro's calculations. The liberalization of Cuban travel will put
pressure on the Obama administration to allow Americans to travel to the
island. From Cuba's point of view it is a win/win situation. More Cubans
will travel abroad, many staying in the host country or making their way
to the U.S. More American tourists will travel to Cuba leaving their
dollars in the island.
What should the United States do? Any major policy concession to Cuba
will be out of proportion to the release of an unjustly imprisoned
American. Gross is a hostage being used by the Cuban government to exact
change from the U.S. The history of U.S-Cuba relations has been
characterized by Cuba's daring actions followed by major U.S.
concessions (i.e. U.S.-Cuba migration accord allowing 20,000 Cubans to
enter the United States following Mariel).
The release of Gross should be seen as a humanitarian gesture requiring
no action on the part of the United States. When Raúl Castro is willing
to offer irreversible concessions, the administration should respond in
kind. Ping-pong diplomacy worked with China. Tit for tat should with Cuba.
Jaime Suchlicki is director of the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.