Monday, March 12, 2012

Egypt and U.S. democracy programs

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Egypt access to the Internet is legal and in Cuba it is not.

Therefore by definition the Americans in Egypt who were set up a mesh network did not break any laws while Alan Gross in Cuba did.

Cuba is a totalitarian state whose government considers itself to be threatened from a more powerful hostile nations and that considers that granting its population unhindered access to the internet to be a security risk. That is the reason why such access is illegal.

From the Cuban government's point of view setting up a series of BGAN sites that would have allowed users with password access to have unsupervised access to satellite internet would be highly subversive because it would have allowed independent journalists and spies to operate freely from Cuba soil.

The whole situation was highly illogical because a mesh network could have been created without risking an American citizen by simply setting up the BGANS in sites that had diplomatic protection.

Therefore this was, if done unintentionally,something extremely dumb to do and if done intentionally a sophisticated provocation designed to create a crisis in US Cuban relations and to freeze any further measures to lift the embargo.

In order to evaluate which of the two variants to believe we must remember that Gross was sent five times into Cuba and that he was at all times well aware of the danger that he could be caught.

Obviously Otto Reich's article also contributes to increase the belief that this whole thing was planned as a provocation and that Alan Gross is being used as a sacrificial lamb buy opponents of better relations among both governments.

The snafu caused by his detention also postpones the possible creation of such a network from diplomatic sites until sfter Alan Gross is released.

Obviously this provides an additional incentive for the Cuban government to prolong his detention until they can find adequate countermeasures to neutralize a future mesh network.

As the saying goes "Guerra avisada no mata soldados!"