Cuba's imprisonment of an American is a rebuke to Obama
Friday, January 22, 2010
A FRIEND of Alan P. Gross, the veteran development consultant from
Potomac who has been jailed without charge in Cuba, says that Mr.
Gross's mistake may have been "not seeing anything wrong with what he
was doing." If so, we can sympathize. Mr. Gross was in Cuba to help
several Jewish community groups gain access to the Internet, so that
they could use sites such as Wikipedia and communicate with each other
and with Jewish organizations abroad, according to his employer,
Bethesda-based Development Alternatives Inc., and other sources familiar
with his work. He reportedly supplied the groups with laptops and
satellite equipment for Internet connections.
For this the 60-year-old contractor was arrested Dec. 4 and has been
held ever since by Cuba's communist regime, which has accused him of
conducting an espionage operation. Only in the ancient, crumbling regime
of the Castro brothers could this ridiculous charge be leveled. That's
because Cuba is virtually alone, even among authoritarian countries, in
trying to prevent most of its population from using the Internet even
for nonpolitical purposes.
A State Department democracy program has tried to help Cubans join the
21st century by distributing laptops and cellphones and providing
satellite Internet connections. Mr. Gross, who has worked in more than
50 countries during the past 25 years, was assisting with this effort.
Yet for this, Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón, another
of the regime's dinosaurs, connected Mr. Gross to "agents, torturers and
spies that are contracted as part of the privatization of war," adding
"this is a man who was contracted to do work for American intelligence
It's worth noting that Mr. Gross's arrest came just two weeks after
President Obama responded by e-mail to questions from Cuba's renowned
blogger, Yoani Sánchez. Mr. Obama praised Ms. Sánchez for her efforts to
"empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of
technology." He also said that he was waiting for some kind of
reciprocation for the several conciliatory gestures he has made to the
Castro regime, including an easing of travel restrictions.
Havana's answer has been the arrest and continued imprisonment of Mr.
Gross. For the Obama administration, the message is crystal-clear: Fidel
and Raúl Castro have no interest in easing repression or in improving
relations with the United States. For Congress, which is considering
legislation authorizing another liberalization of travel restrictions,
the correct response is also obvious: Cuba should be told that no action
will be considered while Mr. Gross remains in prison.
Cuba's imprisonment of an American is a rebuke to Obama –
washingtonpost.com (22 January 2010)