Monday, October 25, 2010


As her husband’s case approaches one full year of pre-trial investigation in Cuba, the wife of detained USAID contractor Alan Gross gave an interview to Reuters.

According to the Reuters story, Judy Gross wrote last August to Cuban President Raul Castro to express regret, sort of: “To the extent his work may have offended you or your government, he and I are genuinely remorseful,” she said in the letter.

Later the report paraphrases her saying that Cuba is holding Mr. Gross “as an example of a foreigner who broke their laws.” And a “source close to the case” is quoted speculating that Cuban authorities are seeking “recognition that their sovereignty was violated.”

There’s more interesting detail in the article, including the suggestion by Mrs. Gross that her husband was not warned of the risk involved in his work. She expressed frustration with the White House (but not the State Department), which prompted a White House statement calling Mr. Gross’ detention “unwarranted” and adding: “Administration officials have repeatedly made clear to Cuban authorities that Alan Gross should be released immediately to be able to rejoin his wife and family – and we will continue to do so.”

If that’s the sum and substance of the Administration’s message, it’s not clear to me that it will be of much help.

What is new in all this is that Mr. Gross is putting some distance between him and the program for which he worked.

The Administration, for its part, doesn’t seem to have distanced itself from the Bush Administration modus operandi for USAID Cuba programs, which the New York Times describes as “semi-covert.” At least not in public, that is – the Times goes on to report:

“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.”

If that’s the case, why doesn’t the Obama Administration explain in public how it has put its own stamp on the program?

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