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Cuba makes it complicated March 15, 2011

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Alan Gross. Not a household name. Not even today as the news of his 15-year prison term was revealed. Most of us may have never heard of the employer he was working as a contractor for: US Agency for International Development (USAID). No matter, he should be recognized by you now. If nothing else, he signifies what is still WRONG about Cuba.

Nicholas Casey reported in The Wall Street Journal today that Mr. Gross has been sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for “distributing Internet equipment on the island under a democracy-promotion program run by USAID.” A Cuban court held that was illegal because it aimed “to destroy the revolution.”

No. Stop laughing. I will write it again: Mr. Gross will be imprisoned for aiming “to destroy the revolution” in Cuba. Now, I have to ask…what revolution? I thought that took place in the 1950s. We’re at least six decades removed from any kind of “revolution” in Cuba. How can one man, selling “Internet equipment” single-handedly destroy a tyrant, dictator, and (against all objective evidence and truth) communist? We’ll get back to “Internet equipment” and revolution in a moment.

At this point, a word of thanks to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She rightly pointed out that if Cuba refrains from releasing Mr. Gross it will “decrease chance the US will push more conciliatory measures with Cuba in the near future.” This is a set-back. It is not permanent. It can be reversed if Cuba (read: the Castros) will be less bellicose about their failed “revolution”.

The Miami Herald clarified the issue on its Op-Ed page:

“The 15-year verdict handed down by a Cuban “court” against U.S. citizen Alan Gross is the deeply unjust result of events that bear no relationship to due process in an impartial legal system. Let’s call this cynical maneuver what it really is — blackmail.

The 61-year-old Mr. Gross is not a criminal of any sort. He’s a chess piece manipulated by the Cuban regime in the relentless war against its own people. The Castro brothers want to stop ordinary Cubans from obtaining the slightest bit of information from the outside world from any independent source. Punishing this envoy from a private U.S. company financed by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development is a convenient way to deter further efforts to circumvent Cuba’s extensive system of communications surveillance.

Satellite phones are increasingly common instruments used to make calls around the world. But not in the Orwellian world run by Fidel and Raúl Castro and their paranoid minions. In Cuba, a satellite phone like the one Mr. Gross is accused of carrying for use by the island’s tiny and impoverished Jewish community is deemed a dangerous weapon in an alleged “cyber war” being waged by the U.S. government to bolster a web of spies plotting to bring down the government.

In most any other country, a violation of customs regulations might result in a stiff fine and possible expulsion from the country. In Cuba, where the state controls all information outlets, violations that threaten the state’s hegemony are seen as crimes that endanger the security of the state.

The real target of this mock-judicial charade is the “pro-democracy” funding from USAID designed to promote Cuba’s budding civil society movement. People who can think for themselves, talk to each other and learn from each other without government intrusion represent a danger to the state’s tyrannical masters, which practice various forms of mind control designed to snuff out any kind of independent action.”

(Bold type is mine in the above quotation)

The Washington Post added:

“(Mr.) Gross, of Potomac (MD), had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

U.S. diplomats expressed dismay but not surprise at the length of the sentence, since prosecutors had sought 20 years. U.S. officials hope the Cuban government will release Gross soon on humanitarian grounds, as it has done with other jailed Americans.”

We can only hope.

Alternatively, Politics Daily‘s Bonnie Goldstein was more skeptical of Mr. Gross than us mere mortals. In a February 11, 2010 column, more than a year ago, she wrote:

“Although he entered the island on a tourist visa, Gross was not in Cuba for the exceptional bird watching. The 60-year-old family man, synagogue member, and former Obama supporter is a technology expert and federal vendor whose specialty is bringing satellite signals to remote locations. Though uninvited by his hosts, he was on Castro’s island as an “independent business and economic development consultant” to Development Alternatives, Inc., a State Department contractor that hired him under a $8.6 million contract from the Agency for International Development. Since his arrest, reporters have asked at State press briefings about Gross’ detention and his precise assignment in Cuba. Few details have been released other than he was there to assist “civil society organizations” to better communicate through technology.”

Ardently mistrustful of the USAID, and maybe rightly so, Ms. Goldstein continued:

“A 2006 audit and investigation by the GAO highlighted taxpayer monies used to purchase Godiva chocolates, Nintendo GameBoys and cashmere sweaters [from USAID funds]. An alleged embezzlement scheme by another grantee was discovered in 2008, leading a member of the House to challenge USAID’s annual program allocation, which had by then grown to $45 million per year. The agency agreed to more closely monitor its contractors, and soon after Alan Gross was hired via DAI to travel to Cuba.

The New York Times reported the lone consultant had already visited Cuba several times under his subcontract when he was arrested. Early accounts of his efforts say he was there to help a small number of Jewish citizens in Cuba obtain “unfiltered access” to the Internet, The Miami Herald reported, but prominent members of the Cuban Jewish community claim they don’t know Gross.
Though his bosses deny he is an intelligence agent, there has been a lot of mystery surrounding Gross’ mission. For over a week after he was detained, his arrest was kept secret from the press and Congress. After reporters learned of his detention, his supervisor at DAI released this statement: “The detained individual was an employee of a program subcontractor, which was implementing a competitively issued subcontract to assist Cuban civil society organizations.” It was not disclosed what companies competed for the job.”

Ms. Goldstein finishes off with this:

“Whether you call what Gross was distributing “cell phones and laptops” or “sophisticated satellite communications equipment” his humanitarian activities are considered by the Cuban government to be illegal. According to the nonprofit Center for Democracy in the Americas, Cuba’s penal code provides a prison term of three to eight years for someone who “participates in the distribution of financial . . . or other resources that come from the United States government, its agencies, subordinates, representatives, functionaries, or private entities.””

So, as far as Ms. Goldstein is concerned, it appears, Mr. Gross is a criminal. He knew what he was getting into and, furthermore, he was associated with an agency not known for precision in its spending and accounting for its spending.

Thus, what is Mr. Gross?

Criminal? No.

Freedom-fighter? Hardly.

An intelligence agent? Not likely.

We have probably seen too many spy movies in the USA. Today, it is easier than ever to believe your benign neighbor is into some sort of sinister undertaking.

Mr. Gross is a convenient outlet for liberals to rail against this administration when they are impotent to do so on real issues.

What Alan Gross represents, more than anything, is what is STILL wrong with Cuba. If attempting to deliver free speech is a crime in Cuba, he will do the time. Cuba will do much worse in the long run.



1. talkingcuba - March 15, 2011

Interesting article. Thanks for your perspective. Cuba Libre! http://talkingcuba.wordpress.com/

2. Rapid Gigabitz - March 21, 2011

i like it Cuba makes it see complicate « Poet at the edge a little while ago im your rss reader

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