Writing at National Review’s website, former Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich takes a side-by-side look at the Alan Gross case and that of the Americans who came close to being put on trial in Cairo for their work there for the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.
I’m not going to compare the two cases – the Americans in Egypt, for starters, operated openly out of their organizations’ local offices – but they are two cases of Americans working on U.S. government-funded democracy programs who landed in legal hot water in their respective jurisdictions.
Mr. Reich notes that the U.S. government used the leverage of our massive economic and military aid program to press the Egyptian government for their release. We have no such leverage in Cuba, and he opposes trading Cuban prisoners in U.S. jails for Gross, so he argues that Washington should threaten to “suspend remittances” if Gross is not freed. Such a move, to the degree Cuban Americans would comply, would hurt families who are responsible neither for Mr. Gross’ actions or his arrest; I somehow doubt it would free him.
“Providing hard currency to any country holding American hostages is both immoral and self-defeating,” he concludes. He leaves out the fact that we paid $330,000 bail in U.S. taxpayer money for each U.S. citizen freed when their legal proceeding was suspended and their travel restrictions lifted.
I’m not suggesting a payoff is desirable or feasible in the Cuban case. But the Egypt case is not as pristine as Mr. Reich portrays it; its solution involved both high principle and a cold cash payment from one government to the other.