Alan Gross, the American imprisoned in Cuba since 2009, has said goodbye to his family. He seems to have despaired. I want us to do something to save him. By us I do mean my elected representatives.
I have read that Cuba wants to swap some spies imprisoned here for him. If we can swap five Guantanamo detainees for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, why are Cuban spies off the table?
When you consider what Gross is being held for, his incarceration makes no sense at all.
He was “arrested for distributing telecommunications material in Cuba,” according to Amnesty’s 2012 annual Human Rights Report. A Cuban tribunal sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison “for crimes against the security of the state.” According to Amnesty “US officials and personalities attempted to secure his release on humanitarian grounds but were unsuccessful.”
So this gentleman, who was trying to allow his fellow Jews in Cuba to connect with the outside world, who did nothing violent, was given a heavy sentence and is being held in poor conditions. He is 65 years old. His health is failing. He has a family. Even if he was robust and 21 and no one loved him, this would be appalling.
Beautiful Cuba, producer of wonderful people and irresistible music, so near and yet so far, has been in the iron grip of a communist regime, officially since 1965. In 1959 it became a revolutionary socialist state, which seems like a semantic difference to me.
A dear friend of mine fled Cuba as a little girl. Her father was a respected person in the government, but his turning point came during the revolutionary socialist period. He realized that his colleagues had set up a rape room for prisoners, according to her sister. He gathered his wife and two daughters and left everything behind.
It’s easy to forget that this is a brutal, abusive regime, just off Miami.
Alan Gross did not forget.
He was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, part of the State Department, when he went to Cuba. We have heard of its efforts to recruit political activists, hoping to develop a Cuban Spring. This is worth doing, and I do not scorn such efforts, though they clearly were not done very effectively.
I’m no Neocon but I do want people in repressive regimes to have a chance. It is proper for America to try to give dissidents abroad a hand. It is also proper for America to support those who put their lives on the line to offer that hand.
It seems Gross’s attorney and I were thinking along the same lines.
“I am extremely worried that Alan is becoming more despondent every day,” said Scott Gilbert, the attorney representing Alan and his wife, Judy Gross, in a statement. “Both governments need to know that Alan plans to end his life in an effort to end this agony.”
“Our hope is that the United States government will recognize that no American deserves to be left behind, whether a soldier or a subcontractor like Alan, who was in Cuba on a U.S. government mission,” Gilbert said.
Send in a SEAL team (kidding, sort of). Land a flotilla (kidding). Swap a spy. Talk to Raúl Castro. Do something, my government. I really hope you are doing something I cannot see. Do not let that man die in prison.