Posted on Monday, 12.09.13
MIAMI HERALD | EDITORIAL
Cuba's American hostage
OUR OPINION: Alan Gross should not be swapped for Cuban spies
Alan Gross began his fifth year as a prisoner of Cuba's unjust "justice"
system last week, a symbol of the continuing estrangement between that
island nation and the United States, and, more important, the
fundamentally unchanged nature of the governing regime.
Mr. Gross, for anyone who needs reminding, is a 64-year-old husband and
father who was surprisingly detained in December of 2009 by Cuban
authorities. He was summarily tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison
for the "crime" of delivering a portable computer and a cellphone to
Cuba's small and isolated Jewish community, an action not normally
considered a crime except by a handful of repressive regimes around the
world, including, of course, Cuba.
Since his arrest, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds. He suffers
from degenerative arthritis and his health continues to deteriorate.
Even worse is the emotional toll that four years of incarceration and
separation have taken on him and his family. For these reasons — and
because his severe punishment is in no way commensurate with his alleged
transgression — he should be released immediately and unconditionally.
On the anniversary of his arrest, Mr. Gross' wife, Judy, made a dramatic
plea for President Obama to "do whatever it takes to bring Alan home."
The Obama administration, for its part, has said, without releasing
details, that it is holding behind-the-scenes talks with the Cubans on
the topic, even though officials have repeatedly called for his release
without the need for negotiations.
Unfortunately, the Cuban government has other plans. Where the rest of
the world sees a victim of an arbitrary and unfair government, Cuba's
leaders see a human pawn that can be used to advance their own selfish
The regime said last week that it was ready to hold talks over Mr.
Gross' freedom, but that any such dialogue must include the situation of
the four imprisoned spies who have been held in this country since 1998.
In fact, the Cuban government has repeatedly declared that it would be
prepared to exchange Mr. Gross for the four so-called "anti-terrorist
fighters" in U.S. jails.
The Obama administration would be wrong to give in to this blackmail
because the two cases are totally distinct. Alan Gross is a hostage; the
Cubans committed espionage. The four Cuban spies (a fifth was released
after completing his sentence and now lives in Cuba) were sentenced for
spying not on Cuban exile organizations, but on U.S. military
installations and for their part in the downing of airplanes belonging
to Brothers to the Rescue in 1996.
Mr. Gross, in contrast, was arrested when he was sent as a private
contractor by USAID with equipment that could be used by Cuba's tiny
Jewish community to connect to the Internet. The Cubans were involved in
espionage activities that had fatal consequences. Alan Gross was part of
an effort to increase the freedom of communication — which may be a
crime in Cuba, but not in the rest of the civilized world. The two cases
could not be more different.
Mr. Gross' wife has pleaded that he should not be left to die in prison.
Releasing him would be the humanitarian thing to do, especially
considering he committed no crime. It's up to the Cuban government to
demonstrate that it's capable, just this once, of doing the right thing.
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