Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Alan Gross Begins His Fourth Year in a Cuban Prison

by Elliott Abrams
December 3, 2012


Alan Gross begins his fourth year in a Cuban prison tomorrow, having been jailed on December 3, 2009.  The State Department issued a good statement:


Tomorrow Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. He was arrested on December 3, 2009 and later given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply facilitating communications between Cuba’s Jewish community and the rest of the world.

Mr. Gross is a 63-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to underserved communities in more than 50 countries.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and suffers from severe degenerative arthritis that affects his mobility, and other health problems. His family is anxious to evaluate whether he is receiving appropriate medical treatment, something that can best be determined by having a doctor of his own choosing examine him.

We continue to ask the Cuban Government to grant Alan Gross’s request to travel to the United States to visit his 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, who is gravely ill. This is a humanitarian issue.

The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs.

Thus far all the efforts by the United States government to free Mr. Gross have been unsuccessful. Those efforts are undermined every time an American tourist visits Cuba, there to play at the beach and deliver hard currency to the Castro regime. I regret that the Obama administration has not tightened up again on travel to Cuba in response to Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonement, and that Americans who know nothing about the treatment of their fellow citizen–or worse are indifferent to it–continue to visit Cuba. Until the regime begins to see more than words from the State Department’s spokesman, until they suffer some real harm from the treatment of Mr. Gross, it may be impossible to free him. Let us hope that conclusion is too pessimistic.

Post a Comment 10 Comments

  • Posted by Anastasia

    FREE US Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera!!!! In 2006, the United Nations called for the release of the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners in United States prisons. Why have they not been freed?! Shame, Shame SHAME!!!!

  • Posted by Jim Kellner

    When we talk about Cuban prisoners, we need to take into account the inconsistent nature of of US Policy i.e. is the US providing a positive, consistent example to follow?

    World recognized terrorist’s given sanctuary in the US, even paid by the US, come to mind and we should avoid the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality.

    When the US supports terrorist’s in the bombing of Cuban hotels, the killing of European tourists, attempted assassinations of Cuban Govt officials and downing of Cuban airline flights to or from Cuba, the Cuban govt.seems justified to react in like fashion.

    The “Cuban 5” who have been held in US prisons for 14 years show the double speak surrounding this “model”.

    These same Cuban “5” who operated in the US targeted only Cuban American organizations that were outwardly attempting to overthrow the Cuban Govt. from American soil. None of their actions were directed at any American security interests, only at those organizations whose objective was to destroy the Cuban Govt. The “5” are really only guilty of entering our country illegally and should have been deported like any other illegal immigrant is.

    All of these 5 Cuban men have families that are as affected as Mr. Gross’s family is. Same pain, same suffering, same isolation.
    When 80% of the Cuban people are satisfied with most of their countries policies (according to CIA information), should we support a return to the days of Batista and the corrupt businesses who are now prospering in Miami. Who are we to tell them how they “should be”.

    What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander. Exchange the “5” for the “1”. Whether this is a “good deal” or not, it is the right thing for both nations to do.

  • Posted by Marlena

    The Cuban 5 are convicted spies who committed murder against U.S. citizens and recent Cuban exiles when they downed the “Brothers to the Rescue” plane in 1996. The Brothers to the Rescue plane attempted to rescue Cubans in the Florida Straits. To assume that the Cuban 5 are some sort of heroes is to buy into the massive propaganda of an authoritarian regime that for 53 years and counting has robbed its population of its basic human dignity.

    Alan Gross was a subcontractor attempting to provide Cuba’s small Jewish community with INTERNET ACCESS so they can bypass the Cuban regime’s anachronistic and backward state-controlled media apparatus.

    Please, please do explain to me how on Earth you can compare these two cases? I am all for the freedom of Mr. Alan Gross, but you must realize that the regime in Cuba is simply using Mr. Gross as a hostage to ransom their own spies back.

    And FYI, those same ‘corrupt businesses’ you mention that were in operation in the 1950s are FLOURISHING in Cuba. Castro only cemented his control over them. He is the biggest crony capitalist on the island, and has managed to hoodwink international observers into thinking he is some sort of enlightened dictator.

  • Posted by Jerry Smith

    This has got to be the stupidest diplomatic standoff of all time. I’m not talking about Mr. Gross but the whole Cuba-U.S. thing, five decades-plus. Can someone in a nutshell tell me why this has not yet been solved? Which side is more obstinate, or is it a tie?

  • Posted by Nancy Kohn

    I too hope that Alan Gross gets to come home soon but his USAID assignment in Cuba is being grossly distorted. Read AP investigative reporter Desmond Butler’s excellent article: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9SS

    In the lawsuit that the Gross family recently filed against the U.S. government, they made it clear that his contract was more about pursuing the Helms Burton Law that codifies regime change in Cuba, than it was about helping the Jewish community in Cuba. He was helping to develop a clandestine communication system that is in strict violation of Cuban law and sovereignty.

    Anyone who is looking at this situation honestly can understand why the Cuban 5 had to come to the U.S. to protect Cuba against terrorist attacks against them. Even Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff, says so. They had no weapons and collected no classified information. What they did was monitor terrorist group operating freely in Southern Florida. These groups have been financed and encouraged by administration after administration since 1959. The Cuban 5 need to go home, as does Mr. Gross.

  • Posted by JEENIE

    After all the talk about hope and change and reform in Cuba, the old Stalinist regime of the Castros turns out to be in bed with North Korea and to be violating UN sanctions on that other Stalinist regime. Birds of a feather….

    Today’s news tells us that a North Korean vessel traveling from Cuba to North Korea was stopped and searched near the Panama Canal. Lo and behold, hidden in the sugar were missile parts. As one news report put it,

    Panama’s president says the country has taken control of a North Korean ship that was trying to illegally sneak missile materials from Cuba through the Panama Canal….”We had suspected this ship, which was coming from Cuba and headed to North Korea, might have drugs aboard so it was brought into port for search and inspection,” Martinelli said. “When we started to unload the shipment of sugar we located containers that we believe to be sophisticated missile equipment….” After examining images, intelligence officials told Fox News that the equipment is part of a “soviet era” radar system that accompanies the SA-2 surface to air missile.

    Hugh Griffiths, an arms trafficking expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the seized ship is called Chong Chon Gang and has been on the institute’s suspect list for some time….Griffiths also said the institute earlier this year reported to the U.N. a discovery it made of a flight from Cuba to North Korea that travelled via central Africa.” “Given the history of North Korea, Cuban military cooperation and now this latest seizure, we find this flight more interesting,” he said. “After this incident there should be renewed focus on North Korean-Cuban links.”

    It is too much to hope that those who have bought the Cuban line about reform on the island would now acknowledge they’ve been hoodwinked. But for the rest of us, and for those wondering why there should still be an embargo on trade with Cuba, this is a reminder of the facts about the Castro regime.

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