Posted on Sunday, 08.07.11
The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL
Unjust verdict, unjust regime
OUR OPINION: Rejected appeal of Alan Gross requires stiff U.S. response
By The Miami Herald Editorial
The decision by a Cuban court to reject the appeal of American citizen
Alan P. Gross sends an unequivocal message that Cuba's hardliners remain
unmoved by humanitarian concerns or Washington's efforts to establish a
better relationship with the regime. This regime isn't interested in a
The 62-year-old U.S. Agency of International Development subcontractor
was thrown in jail following his arrest in December of 2009 for the
"crime" of bringing equipment into the country to help the impoverished
members of its tiny Jewish community connect with the Internet. Only in
Cuba would this otherwise benign act be characterized as subversion and
the hapless individual caught in a trap labeled a spy.
He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison. Cuba's highest court
upheld that sentence on Friday. Ostensibly, it's a judicial decision,
but have no doubt — Fidel and Raúl Castro dictated this outcome. The
decision was rightly condemned by lawmakers in Washington from both
parties and leaders of the Jewish community in this country for its
harshness and unfairness.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, who chairs the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, called it an "unjust and unwarranted imprisonment"
and demanded his unconditional release. "This administration must
realize that two bit tyrants only understand hardball tactics and they
are not at all moved by the diplomatic niceties that Obama has engaged
in." On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D-New York,
labeled the decision "simply unjustified and inhumane."
Calls for leniency for Mr. Gross for humanitarian reasons are well
grounded. He's been confined for 19 months already, and, according to
his wife, has undergone severe weight loss in prison. He suffers from a
variety of ailments, including diabetes. His daughter has cancer and his
mother is also said to be in poor health.
Clearly, humanitarian appeals from both the administration and other
leading voices in this country have fallen on deaf ears in Havana. Mr.
Obama has no choice but to stiffen his backbone and react to hardball
tactics by putting a freeze on efforts to reach out to Cuba's leadership
in ways that will get their attention. The Editorial Board has supported
increased people-to-people contacts and family visits. We still do. But
the administration's rhetorical demands for his release have gone
nowhere, and likely won't unless the administration makes an appropriate
For openers, the administration should put a hold on cultural exchanges
— halting visas for Cuban entertainers who come to this country and reap
financial benefits for the regime — and reduce family visits to once a
year instead of the open-ended rule that currently prevails. Cuba needs
dollars now, and anything that affects this vital lifeline would matter
to the regime and its leaders.
There's a time and place for goodwill, unilateral gestures and
concessions. But as long as Alan Gross remains a hostage of the Cuban
dictatorship, it does not deserve either conciliation from the United
States or the level of respect from the international community granted
to free countries.