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  1. #1
    Senior Member Lefisc's Avatar
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    NY Times Editorial on Alan Gross

    Today in the Times they write About Mr. Gross: . At a time when a growing number of officials in Washington and Havana are eager to start normalizing relations, Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonment has become the chief obstacle to a diplomatic breakthrough.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/03/opinion/a-prisoner-swap-with-cuba.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

    Nearly five years ago, authorities in Cuba arrested an American government subcontractor, Alan Gross, who was working on a secretive program to expand Internet access on the island. At a time when a growing number of officials in Washington and Havana are eager to start normalizing relations, Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonment has become the chief obstacle to a diplomatic breakthrough.
    There is only one plausible way to remove Mr. Gross from an already complicated equation. The Obama administration should swap him for three convicted Cuban spies who have served more than 16 years in federal prison.

    Officials at the White House are understandably anxious about the political fallout of a deal with Havana, given the criticism they faced in May after five Taliban prisoners were exchanged for an American soldier kidnapped in Afghanistan. The American government, sensibly, is averse to negotiating with terrorists or governments that hold United States citizens for ransom or political leverage. But in exceptional circumstances, it makes sense to do so. The Alan Gross case meets that criteria.

    Under the direction of Development Alternatives Inc., which had a contract with the United States Agency for International Development, Mr. Gross traveled to Havana five times in 2009, posing as a tourist, to smuggle communications equipment as part of an effort to provide more Cubans with Internet access. The Cuban government, which has long protested Washington’s covert pro-democracy initiatives on the island, tried and convicted Mr. Gross in 2011, sentencing him to 15 years in prison for acts against the integrity of the state.
    Early on in Mr. Gross’s detention, Cuban officials suggested they might be willing to free him if Washington put an end to initiatives designed to overthrow the Cuban government. After those talks sputtered, the Cuban position hardened and it has become clear to American officials that the only realistic deal to get Mr. Gross back would involve releasing three Cuban spies convicted of federal crimes in Miami in 2001.
    In order to swap prisoners, President Obama would need to commute the men’s sentences. Doing so would be justified considering the lengthy time they have served, the troubling questions about the fairness of their trial, and the potential diplomatic payoff in clearing the way toward a new bilateral relationship.
    The spy who matters the most to the Cuban government, Gerardo Hernández, is serving two life sentences. Mr. Hernández, the leader of the so-called Wasp Network, which infiltrated Cuban exile groups in South Florida in the 1990s, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Prosecutors accused him of conspiring with authorities in Havana to shoot down civilian planes operated by a Cuban exile group that dropped leaflets over the island urging Cubans to rise up against their government. His four co-defendants, two of whom have been released and returned home, were convicted of nonviolent crimes. The two who remain imprisoned are due for release relatively soon.
    A three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned the convictions in August 2005, ruling that a “perfect storm” of factors deprived the five defendants of a fair trial. The judges found that widespread hostility toward the Cuban government in Miami and pretrial publicity that vilified the spies made it impossible to impanel an impartial jury. The full court later reversed the panel’s finding, reinstating the verdict. But the judges raised other concerns about the case that led to a reduction of three of the sentences.
    One of the judges, Phyllis Kravitch, wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that Mr. Hernández’s murder-conspiracy conviction was unfounded. Prosecutors, she argued, failed to establish that Mr. Hernández, who provided Havana with information about the flights, had entered into an agreement to shoot down the planes in international, as opposed to Cuban, airspace. Downing the planes over Cuban airspace, which the exiles had penetrated before, would not constitute murder under American law.

    Bringing Mr. Hernández home has become a paramount priority for Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro. Cuban officials have hailed the men as heroes and portrayed their trial as a travesty. Independent entities, including a United Nations panel that examines cases of arbitrary detentions and Amnesty International, have raised concerns about the fairness of the proceedings. The widespread view in Cuba that the spies are victims has, unfortunately, emboldened Cuba to use Mr. Gross as a pawn.
    For years, officials in Washington have said that they would not trade the Cuban spies for Mr. Gross, arguing that a trade would create a false “equivalency.”
    But a prisoner exchange could pave the way toward re-establishing formal diplomatic ties, positioning the United States to encourage positive change in Cuba through expanded trade, travel opportunities and greater contact between Americans and Cubans. Failing to act would maintain a 50-year cycle of mistrust and acts of sabotage by both sides.
    Beyond the strategic merits of a swap, the administration has a duty to do more to get Mr. Gross home. His arrest was the result of a reckless strategy in which U.S.A.I.D. has deployed private contractors to perform stealthy missions in a police state vehemently opposed to Washington’s pro-democracy crusade.

    While in prison, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds. He is losing vision in his right eye. His hips are failing. This June, Mr. Gross’s elderly mother died. After he turned 65 in May, Mr. Gross told his loved ones that this year would be his last in captivity, warning that he intends to kill himself if he is not released soon. His relatives and supporters regard that as a serious threat from a desperate, broken man.
    If Alan Gross died in Cuban custody, the prospect of establishing a healthier relationship with Cuba would be set back for years. This is an entirely avoidable scenario, as Mr. Obama can easily grasp, but time is of the essence.






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  2. #2
    Administrator Tracy Rainwater's Avatar
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    This is a sad story, for everyone involved. I don't foresee anything happening until very near the end President's term, if even then.

    This may turn out to be a similar situation to the release of US hostages, just days after President Carter left office.

  3. #3
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    Barry: Bless you for this wonderful post. I, and many other's have been fighting this travesty for 4 1/2 years. We have written many letters to the powers that be, to no avail.

    This Cold War between the US & Cuba has been going on for well over 50 years. Since I know Alan personally, I know what a great guy he really is. We just keep perpetuating this rediculous battle. It's time to end it; make peace. For G-d's sake immediately send the Cuban 3 back to Cuba, and return Alan to his family.

    The more awareness we get, the better. But Alan is desparate and threatening suicide. He has been pushed over the edge. His health is failing and he has not received any real medical care. Even if he returns, he might have to spend a year in a hospital. His heart is broken. His wife, Judy and his two daughter's are broken hearted, not having their Dad around.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefisc View Post
    Today in the Times they write About Mr. Gross: . At a time when a growing number of officials in Washington and Havana are eager to start normalizing relations, Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonment has become the chief obstacle to a diplomatic breakthrough.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/03/opinion/a-prisoner-swap-with-cuba.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

    Nearly five years ago, authorities in Cuba arrested an American government subcontractor, Alan Gross, who was working on a secretive program to expand Internet access on the island. At a time when a growing number of officials in Washington and Havana are eager to start normalizing relations, Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonment has become the chief obstacle to a diplomatic breakthrough.
    There is only one plausible way to remove Mr. Gross from an already complicated equation. The Obama administration should swap him for three convicted Cuban spies who have served more than 16 years in federal prison.

    Officials at the White House are understandably anxious about the political fallout of a deal with Havana, given the criticism they faced in May after five Taliban prisoners were exchanged for an American soldier kidnapped in Afghanistan. The American government, sensibly, is averse to negotiating with terrorists or governments that hold United States citizens for ransom or political leverage. But in exceptional circumstances, it makes sense to do so. The Alan Gross case meets that criteria.

    Under the direction of Development Alternatives Inc., which had a contract with the United States Agency for International Development, Mr. Gross traveled to Havana five times in 2009, posing as a tourist, to smuggle communications equipment as part of an effort to provide more Cubans with Internet access. The Cuban government, which has long protested Washington’s covert pro-democracy initiatives on the island, tried and convicted Mr. Gross in 2011, sentencing him to 15 years in prison for acts against the integrity of the state.
    Early on in Mr. Gross’s detention, Cuban officials suggested they might be willing to free him if Washington put an end to initiatives designed to overthrow the Cuban government. After those talks sputtered, the Cuban position hardened and it has become clear to American officials that the only realistic deal to get Mr. Gross back would involve releasing three Cuban spies convicted of federal crimes in Miami in 2001.
    In order to swap prisoners, President Obama would need to commute the men’s sentences. Doing so would be justified considering the lengthy time they have served, the troubling questions about the fairness of their trial, and the potential diplomatic payoff in clearing the way toward a new bilateral relationship.
    The spy who matters the most to the Cuban government, Gerardo Hernández, is serving two life sentences. Mr. Hernández, the leader of the so-called Wasp Network, which infiltrated Cuban exile groups in South Florida in the 1990s, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Prosecutors accused him of conspiring with authorities in Havana to shoot down civilian planes operated by a Cuban exile group that dropped leaflets over the island urging Cubans to rise up against their government. His four co-defendants, two of whom have been released and returned home, were convicted of nonviolent crimes. The two who remain imprisoned are due for release relatively soon.
    A three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned the convictions in August 2005, ruling that a “perfect storm” of factors deprived the five defendants of a fair trial. The judges found that widespread hostility toward the Cuban government in Miami and pretrial publicity that vilified the spies made it impossible to impanel an impartial jury. The full court later reversed the panel’s finding, reinstating the verdict. But the judges raised other concerns about the case that led to a reduction of three of the sentences.
    One of the judges, Phyllis Kravitch, wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that Mr. Hernández’s murder-conspiracy conviction was unfounded. Prosecutors, she argued, failed to establish that Mr. Hernández, who provided Havana with information about the flights, had entered into an agreement to shoot down the planes in international, as opposed to Cuban, airspace. Downing the planes over Cuban airspace, which the exiles had penetrated before, would not constitute murder under American law.

    Bringing Mr. Hernández home has become a paramount priority for Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro. Cuban officials have hailed the men as heroes and portrayed their trial as a travesty. Independent entities, including a United Nations panel that examines cases of arbitrary detentions and Amnesty International, have raised concerns about the fairness of the proceedings. The widespread view in Cuba that the spies are victims has, unfortunately, emboldened Cuba to use Mr. Gross as a pawn.
    For years, officials in Washington have said that they would not trade the Cuban spies for Mr. Gross, arguing that a trade would create a false “equivalency.”
    But a prisoner exchange could pave the way toward re-establishing formal diplomatic ties, positioning the United States to encourage positive change in Cuba through expanded trade, travel opportunities and greater contact between Americans and Cubans. Failing to act would maintain a 50-year cycle of mistrust and acts of sabotage by both sides.
    Beyond the strategic merits of a swap, the administration has a duty to do more to get Mr. Gross home. His arrest was the result of a reckless strategy in which U.S.A.I.D. has deployed private contractors to perform stealthy missions in a police state vehemently opposed to Washington’s pro-democracy crusade.

    While in prison, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds. He is losing vision in his right eye. His hips are failing. This June, Mr. Gross’s elderly mother died. After he turned 65 in May, Mr. Gross told his loved ones that this year would be his last in captivity, warning that he intends to kill himself if he is not released soon. His relatives and supporters regard that as a serious threat from a desperate, broken man.
    If Alan Gross died in Cuban custody, the prospect of establishing a healthier relationship with Cuba would be set back for years. This is an entirely avoidable scenario, as Mr. Obama can easily grasp, but time is of the essence.







  4. #4
    Senior Member Lefisc's Avatar
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    Jeff,

    I have been following your comments and posted this especially for you to see. I understand you frustration, this is a terrible thing when people become pawns in this sort of, well, crap. What struck me is the Times quote, “Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonment has become the chief obstacle to a diplomatic breakthrough.” Which means that the government HAS been looking into this issue and it had not been ignored. The piece even acknowledges Mr. Gross’s health and state of mind, which is serious.

    My gosh, we have made “peace” with Russia, China and even Viet Nam. I am NOT blaming our government here but the Cubans have been so rigid in their policies too. Nothing has seemed to work over the last 50 years.

    It’s difficult, when Obama had a prisoner exchange earlier this year, many on the right criticized him by saying that it opened the door for the terrorists to take more prisoners as a bargaining tool. Now the government is being hit because they aren’t doing it.

    I just hope this publicly magnifies and forces both sides to do the right thing
    Barry
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  5. #5
    Administrator Tracy Rainwater's Avatar
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    I think it all comes down to the fact, that Cuba is the only Communist government that it literally 70 miles from the USA. That, and the fact that they were so eager to park a few of Russia's nuclear missiles, in our back yard.

    Add to all this, is they don't want us interfering with their way of government, and you have yourself a standstill.

  6. #6
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    Please allow me to clarify something here. In my prior posts, you can read a lot about this horror story. I want to make this poerfectly clear that I do not blame Cuba for much of this. First, realize that the Cuban people are not to blame for any of this They, too, are just victims of the Castro Communist rule. Allow me to spill the beans. The Cold War between Cuba & the US has gone on for 50+ years since the Bay of Pigs. It's a stalemate, and there is such bad blood between Cuba & America. Most Americans blame it all on Cuba. I beg to differ. Our government (the State Dept & DAI) works secretly, and we know very little about their actual operations. Intelligence, counter Intelligence. We cannot trust what they are up to (like the KGB).

    Unfortunately, our government does not want Alan Gross to return home. He worked for the State Dept & DAI. He knows their inner workings. They fear that if Alan was to come home, he would spill the beans on CNN/ Fox News about the truth. They abandoned Alan to take the fall. Alan is collateral damage as far as they are concerned. They sent him there on a dangerous mission, they did not inform him on the inherent dangers in a communist country. It's a shame that our Prez, our government will not tell the truth about this. It's all about cover ups.

    You must also consider the ramafications of the Helms- Burton Act which was implemented in 1996 by Prez Clinton. This Act also influences what the Cuban government does. It goes back to when Fidel Castro took power, they confiscated land & property belonging to Americans. They never surrendered or offered payment to these Americans. Any foreign country that deals with Cuba, will not be allowed to deal with the US on those terms. This adversely affects relations between the two countries. There are also similarities to the case of Edward Snowden, now living in Russia. Edward Snowden also worked for our government and had much inside information. Most people consider him a traitor to our country, however, consider the fact that he saw things that went on that deeply disturbed him about what was going on inside our government. Then, I raise the issue of whether or not he is actually a traitor, or rather he tried to inform his superiors about the wrong doing inside our government. Was he therefore a whistle blower looking out to fix the injustices that he saw going on? In the second senario, he might be considered a loyal American just trying to fix the wrong doing that he saw. There are obvious similarities to Alan, but I believe that Alan's circumstances are worse.

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    I thank my wife, Zelda for posting this story from our local CBS affiliate here in Baltimore. Pray On. Alan is now blind in one eye thanks to the Cuban government.

    2 U.S. Senators Return From Cuba Without Imprisoned Md. Man Alan Gross


    HAVANA, Cuba (WJZ) — Empty handed. Two U.S. senators who traveled to Cuba are extremely disappointed they’re returning without Maryland’s Alan Gross.

    Gross is serving out a 15-year prison sentence after being convicted of smuggling banned communications equipment into Cuba.

    Alan Gross is increasingly upset with the United States and refuses to meet with U.S. diplomats in Cuba in protest over the slow progress to free him.

    Now two U.S. senators who just met with him say Gross is threatening suicide, vowing not to spend another year in Cuban confinement.

    The senators say they pushed the Cuban government hard to release Gross.

    “I do feel we’re closer there. One, because what Alan Gross has said himself–this is going to end, one way or another,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona.

    The Cuban government says Gross can be freed in a prisoner swap. They want the release of three imprisoned Cuban intelligence agents serving lengthy federal prison sentences in the United States.

    But the U.S. State Department doesn’t want that, saying Gross was an aid worker merely trying to help Cuba’s small Jewish community get online–despite Cuba’s restrictions on Internet access.

    Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and is now blind in one eye. The senators say he’s desperate to come home.

    “The important thing you need to know about our visit with him is he really wants to go home,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico.

    Gross’ wife, Judy, was forced to sell their home in Maryland because of dwindling finances.

    Gross has been in a Cuban prison for five years.

  8. #8
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    This is an article from GlobalResearch. After reading it you may begin to wonder about the USAID's credibility as an aid organization or whether they are the new CIA.


    The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) is an independent research and media organization based in Montreal. The CRG is a registered non-profit organization in the province of Quebec, Canada.

    USAID Spying in Latin America

    By Nil Nikandrov
    Global Research, October 01, 2012
    Strategic Culture Foundation

    Region: Latin America & Caribbean
    Theme: Intelligence


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    The ejection of USAID from Russia was a long-awaited and welcome development. Moscow has repeatedly warned its US partners via an array of channels of communication that the tendency of USAID to interfere with Russia’s domestic affairs was unacceptable and, particularly, that the radicalism of its pet NGOs in the Caucasus would not be tolerated. When, on October 1, the decision made by the Russian leadership takes effect, the Moscow-based USAID staff which has been stubbornly ignoring the signals will have to pack and relocate to other countries facing allegations of authoritarian rule…In Latin America, USAID has long earned a reputation of an organization whose offices are, in fact, intelligence centers scheming to undermine legitimate governments in a number of the continent’s countries. The truth that USAID hosts CIA and US Defense Intelligence Agency operatives is not deeply hidden, as those seem to have played a role in every Latin American coup, providing financial, technical, and ideological support to respective oppositions. USAID also typically seeks engagement with the local armed forces and law-enforcement agencies, recruiting within them agents ready to lend a hand to the opposition when the opportunity arises. To varying extents, all of the Latin American populist leaders felt the USAID pressure. No doubt, Venezuela’s H. Chavez is the number one target on the USAID enemies list. Support for the regime’s opponents in the country shrank considerably since the massive 2002-2004 protests as the nation saw the government refocus on socioeconomic issues, health care, housing construction, and youth policies. The opposition had to start relying more on campaigns in the media, around 80% of which are run by the anti-Chavez camp. Panic-provoking rumors about imminent food supply disruptions, overstated reports about the crime level in Venezuela (where, actually, there is less crime than in most countries friendly to the US), and allegations of government incompetence in response to technological disasters which became suspiciously frequent as the elections drew closer are bestowed on the audiences as a part of the subversive scenario involving a network of Venezuelan NGOs. In some cases, the membership of the latter can be limited to 3-4 people, but, coupled to strong media support, the opposition can prove to be an ominous force. Pro-Chavez commentators are worried that USAID agents will contest the outcome of the vote and, synchronously, paramilitary groups will plunge Venezuelan cities into chaos to give the US a pretext for a military intervention.
    USAID is known to have contributed to the recent failed coup in Ecuador, during which president R. Correa narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. Elite police forces heavily sponsored by the US and the media which made use of the liberal free speech legislation to smear Correa were the key actors in the outbreak. Subsequently, it took Correa serious efforts to get a revised media code approved in the parliament contrary to the USAID-lobbied resistance.
    Several bids to displace the government of Evo Morales clearly employed the USAID operative potential in Bolivia. According to journalist and author Eva Golinger, USAID poured at least $85m into destabilizing the regime in the country. Initially, the US hoped to achieve the desired result by entraining the separatists from the predominantly white Santa Cruz district. When the plan collapsed, USAID switched to courting the Indian communities with which the ecology-oriented NGOs started to get in touch a few years before. Disorienting accounts were fed to the Indians that the construction of an expressway across their region would leave the communities landless, and the Indian protest marches to the capital that followed ate away at the public standing of Morales. It transpired shortly that many of the marches including those staged by the TIPNIS group, had been coordinated by the US embassy. The job was done by embassy official Eliseo Abelo, a USAID curator for the Bolivian indigenous population. His phone conversations with the march leaders were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public, so that he had to escape from the country while the US diplomatic envoy to Bolivia complained about the phone tapping.
    In June 2012, foreign ministers of the ALBA bloc countries passed a resolution on USAID. It read: «Citing foreign aid planning and coordination as a pretext, USAID openly meddles in sovereign countries’ domestic affairs, sponsoring NGOs and protest activities intended to destabilize legitimate governments which are unfavorable from Washington’s perspective. Documents released from the US Department of State archives carry evidence that financial support had been provided to parties and groups oppositional to the governments of ALBA countries, a practice tantamount to undisguised and audacious interference on the US behalf. In most ALBA countries, USAID operates via its extensive NGO networks, which it runs outside of the due legal framework, and also illicitly funds media and political groups. We are convinced that our countries have no need for external financial support to maintain the democracy established by Latin American and Caribbean nations, or for externally guided organizations which try to weaken or sideline our government institutions». The ministers called the ALBA leaderships to immediately deport USAID representatives who threaten the sovereignty and political stability of the countries where they work. The resolution was signed by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
    Paul J. Bonicelli was confirmed by the US Senate as the USAID Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean last May. Former USAID chief Mark Feuerstein gained such notoriety in Latin America as the brain behind the ousters of the legitimate leaders of Honduras and Paraguay that the continent’s politicians simply had to learn to avoid him. The USAID credibility is increasingly drying up, and it is unlikely that Bonicelli, a PhD and a conservative, will be able to reverse the tendency. His record includes heading various USAID divisions and «promoting democracy» in concert with the US National Security Council.
    Bonicelli’s views are reflected in his papers in the Foreign Policy journal. To Bonicelli, Chavez is not a democrat but a leader eager to get rid of all of his opponents. The new USAID boss holds that, apart from the drug threat, Chavez – having inspired populist followers in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua – poses the biggest challenge to the US interests in Latin America. Bonicelli therefore urges the US to prop up the Venezuelan opposition in every way possible, providing material support and training, so that it can maximally take part in elections and civilian activities.
    Another paper by Bonicelli portrays Russia’s present-day evolution as grim regress and a slide towards «neo-Tsarism». Based on the perception, Bonicelli argues that the West should hold Russia and its leaders accountable in whatever concerns freedom and democracy – even if freedom in the country is important to just a handful of people – and cites the case of Poland where the US used to stand by Lech Wałęsa.
    Chances are slim that a reform of USAID would restore the agency’s credibility in Latin America. Sticking to a trimmed list of priorities, USAID axed a few minor programs and shut down its offices in Chile, Argentine, Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Panama, with Brazil next in line. USAID believes that the above countries are already in reasonable shape and no longer need assistance, so that the agency can throw its might against its main foes – the populists and Cuba, and do its best to have the politicians unfriendly to Washington removed across the Western Hemisphere. The stated USAID budget for Latin America is $750m, but estimates show that the secret part of the funding, which is leveraged by the CIA, may total twice the amount.

  9. #9
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    Jive420: Thank you for this post. We need all the exposure we can get. I agree with you about US Aid. If only our gov would send those 3 Cubans home immediately. They have paid the price. This would bring Alan home. Obama & our gov just doesn't want it to happen. They are stubborn and don't care. They prefer that Alan stays where he is. Alan is pissed off & he has a lot of inside information. Our gov is afraid of him spilling the beans.

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