Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Alan Gross, 13 months and counting

USAID contractor Alan Gross was arrested more than 13 months ago and has yet to face charges in the Cuban judicial system. A pre-trial detention of this length is an abuse in my view, all the more so because it is hard to conceive that Cuba’s investigation of his activities is yielding any new information so long after the fact. Regardless of one’s view of his activities or Cuban law, I think it’s beyond dispute that the man should be tried or released.

Mr. Gross’ plight is a major concern to the Obama Administration, which speaks up regularly on his behalf. The Administration seems to be delaying initiatives in U.S. policy and in diplomacy with the Cuban government until the case is resolved. Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela said last week that expanded contacts through greater U.S. citizen travel is “still our objective,” but that Washington has told Cuban officials that “it’s very difficult to move to greater engagement in the context where they have continued to hold Alan Gross” (see Washington Post article).

One can debate whether such linkage makes sense for U.S. interests, or for those of Mr. Gross himself. (My answers: no, and almost certainly not.)

Cuba’s responsibility is clear: for his arrest, his welfare, and his long detention without trial.

But I’m curious if anyone in the Obama Administration bears a different kind of responsibility, for carrying out an amateur-hour covert operation in the first place. The facts seem to be that Mr. Gross speaks little to no Spanish, he entered on tourist visas, and he installed satellite communications equipment. How did the State Department expect this operation to turn out when they sent him to Cuba?


leftside said...

I'm probably venturing too far into conspiracy land, but the more I learn about US policy in Cuba, the more I tend to think this result is EXACTLY what the US intented. Just as in 2002-2003, when Carson ramped up US Embassy contacts with dissidents on the island. The ensuing arrests were a godsend to a struggling US-Cuba policy - in the same way this Gross case allows the US to move the goalposts and ignore the significant reforms being undertaken in Cuba,

Unknown said...

Alan Gross broke the law in Cuba.People must follow laws in host countries no matter how ridiculous they sound. Alan is not the poor, innocent victim the media claims he is. He knew exactly what he was doing and should pay the consequences. However I do agree with you that they should charge him with something. He was a part in the U.SAid program which is meant to facilitate regime change in Cuba. The U.S government should not be using Gross's imprisonment as an excuse not to improve relations with Cuba.

Anonymous said...

As in the past, Cuba has been very clever in cooling any relations with the US without it looking intentional. The State is defined by the Embargo and poor relations with the US. It is the main defense of most of the current policies. Without the US the fight would be over.

It is clear that the Cuban state has no intention of letting relations improve, but the saddest part is the US makes it so easy for them to maintain the status quo and thus stay in power.

Unknown said...

The USA was directly responsible for the massive arrests in 2003. According to Roger Noriega, Assistant SOS for the Western Hemisphere, The Us government's intent was to create conditions that would cause the closing of the 2 Embassys, therefore the U.SD would never have to deal with Cuba. Instead it backfired on the U.S. Instead of kicking the"diplomats" out the Cuban government arrested the people who were collaborating with the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Agree completely that the Cuban government should either charge Gross or let him go. It is absolutely unconscionable that he has been in custody for a year without charges. The Cubans complain about what is happening in GITMO, they are doing the same. Shame on them. They can't take the high ground on the Cuban Five or GITMO until they deal with Gross fairly. My opinion is he should be charged, but the way they are handling things is terrible.