Tag Archives: Alan Gross

Sign the Petition

“Karen Lee Wald”

This is what I received, asking us to sign a petition on a White House website, asking the White House “to open an honest dialog with the Cuban government to secure the release of American Operative Alan Gross” I thought it was a put-on. The message read:
The White House has put this petition on its website. It asks the US government to open a dialogue with Cuba for the release of Alan Gross. Your signature is needed. http://1.usa. gov/TyOtlG

Open an honest dialog with the Cuba government to secure the release of American operative Alan Gross
Include potential prisoner exchanges, admissions of wrong doing, drop of the embargo as incentives to bring this man home. His employer owes it to him.

When I first received an email urging me to go to the White House site to sign a petition of this nature, I thought it was a spoof or a virus or something — that it couldn’t be serious. So I asked around, and received this explanation:
It’s part of an initiative by the WH to “listen to the people”. So anyone can go there and post a petition. I think in this case it was LAWG/WOLA/ETC. Then if 25,000 sign it within an allotted amount of time, it gets bumped up to a higher level and at some point the most popular petitions get accepted and read by whoever at White House is in charge of this program. Supposedly it is a way for people to organize and be heard by the administration and for the admin to know what is important to large groups of people. Which means we need to get the largest number of people possible to sign this petition, and soon.

Here’s an explanation about how to do it:
Dear friends:

Here is how the White House Petition works. You have to open an account with them first:

1- Click on the link that goes to the petition.

http://1.usa. gov/TyOtlG

2- There is a blue square that reads “Create an account”. Click on it.
3- Fill in the blanks on the form: e-mail address, name, last name and zip code (optional).
4- Read and type the gibberish they put below [“Captcha” –used on many sites to make sure you are a real person and not a spamming machine. That’s the hard part for me because I often don’t see them in my browser. I’m not sure what you can do if you have the same problem. klw]
5- Click again on the blue square at the bottom “Create an account”.
Take a quick break and go to your e-mail inbox. You are going to have a message from them to confirm that you are in fact a real person.
6- After the first paragraph there comes a long link. Click on it and you have already set up the account with them.
7- After that you have to go back to the original petition:

http://1.usa. gov/TyOtlG

8- Click on the blue square which says “Sign in” and then fill in the blanks and you are all set. You’ll be immediately notified that your name was registered.

I know this sounds like a lot of hassle, but believe me, people who really want to see improved relations between the two countries believe this could be a very effective tool to get the Administration’ s attention, so it’s worth doing. If you can’t do it right now, don’t delete it — put it in some folder you will go back to when you have the time (I have one like that called “Activities” ) and do it. But don’t wait too long.


Case of Alan Gross

(Originally posted by Cuba Central)

Dear Friends,

We report on a flurry of activity concerning the case of Alan Gross, just days before the third anniversary of his arrest in Cuba, an event marked at a press conference in Washington this morning by his wife Judy Gross, understandably disconsolate, with his lawyer, Jared Genser, by her side.

Together, they said the Obama administration had failed to pursue vigorous diplomacy sufficient to secure his release.  He feels “dumped and forgotten” by the U.S. government, Mrs. Gross said, like a soldier left to die.  The lawyer’s message to the U.S. government was also direct:  “You sent him there; you have an obligation to get him out.”

In fact, they laid blame at the feet of both governments for being obstacles to the settlement of his case.  They said the Cuban government, which publicly calls for direct negotiations to address his case and the captivity of the Cuban Five, was either unable or unwilling to talk.

But they also made a special point of noting that the Obama administration had actively sought and won the release of Americans imprisoned abroad, and said the administration should pick an envoy close to President Obama, with full White House support, to go to Cuba and negotiate Alan Gross’s release.

Significantly, they called his captivity an obstacle to improvements in U.S.-Cuba relations, and urged both parties to work for his release.  In saying so, they parted company with the most ardent embargo supporters, who warn the Obama administration not to negotiate for his release.

As Senator Bob Menendez said this week in an interview with the New York Times “I’m not into negotiating for someone who is clearly a hostage of the Cuban regime.” Judy Gross correctly diagnosed the hardliner’s position as a surefire recipe for continuing his captivity for years.  “He is a pawn of these very radical right-wing Cuba haters, for lack of a better word, who don’t want to see any changes happen, even to get Alan home.”

Mrs. Gross pled for her husband’s release on humanitarian grounds, and demanded access by doctors for an independent examination of a mass on his shoulder that the family believes could be cancerous.  For its part, the Cuban government released this week the results of a biopsy conducted October 24th, and an examination by a physician who is also ordained as a Rabbi, who concluded that the growth is not cancerous.

Two weeks ago, attorneys for the Gross family filed a law suit against the U.S. government and his employer, the USAID contractor DAI, seeking $60 million in damages.  In the complaint available here, they concede that his activities were “to promote (a) successful democratic transition” in Cuba and that when he was at risk of detection by Cuban authorities, USAID failed to comply with provisions of the “Counterintelligence Manual” to save him before his arrest.

Mr. Gross knew of the dangers associated with his activities in Cuba, writing in one of the trip reports filed with his employer under the USAID contract, “In no uncertain terms, this is very risky business.”

In light of these facts, it is hard to understand why his legal representatives still argue that all he was doing in Cuba was trying to improve Internet access for the Jewish community.  This benign explanation was long ago overtaken by the facts.

Even so, it is a position that remains front and center in the U.S. State Department’s talking points.  Victoria Nuland, the department’s Spokesperson, responded to a reporter who asked about the Gross case, by saying:

But again, just to remind that this is a guy who’s been incarcerated for no reason for three years and ought to come home. Alan Gross was given a 15-year prison term simply for the supposed crime of helping the Jewish community of Cuba communicate with the outside world.

Old tropes die hard, especially when the U.S. government decides we can’t handle the truth.  This failure to concede why Mr. Gross was arrested and convicted not only contributes to the lack of movement in his case, but is especially alarming now that we know the Obama administration is doubling down on the program that led to his arrest.

As Tracey Eaton reports in Along the Malecón, the U.S. government “The U.S. government has hired a former CIA agent,” named Daniel Gabriel, “to create and manage a team of at least 10 journalists in Cuba.”  Gabriel’s Linked In profile concludes with this heartfelt endorsement:

“Dan is one of those dream clients you get once in a blue moon: totally risk tolerant, possessed of a voracious appetite for learning, and the drive to turn pontification into action.”

We could not think of a clearer case for why these programs need to end.

Josefina Vidal on ALAN GROSS

Contrary to many reports, including one in The Washington Post, this is not the “first time” that Cuba has expressed its “willingness to dialogue” with the U.S. Government about the case of Alan Gross. Nor is it the first time Cuba has indicated that the ball is in Washington’s court. Here is the September 12 statement by Josefina Vidal, who heads the department of U.S. affairs at the Foreign Ministry and here is the transcript of her May 10 interview by Wolf Blitzer on CNN. She clearly says, “Cuba reiterates the willingness to dialogue” and awaits a response.
Jane Franklin

Statement by Josefina Vidal, Head for United States affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Transcript of May 10, 2012, Interview by Wolf Blitzer on CNN

BLITZER: The letter I received from the top Cuban diplomat here in Washington, Jorge Bolanos (ph) clearly suggested to me that the Castro government is interested in a prisoner swap exchanging Alan Gross for members of the so-called “Cuban five”. They’re serving lengthy prison sentences in the United States after being convicted on spy charges. I’ve been reaching out to both Cuban and U.S. officials to try to clarify their positions and to also try to keep the lines of communication open.


And Josefina Vidal is joining us now from Havana. She’s the head of North American Affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Are you prepared to tell us what you want in exchange for the release of Alan Gross?

JOSEFINA VIDAL, CUBAN FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL: Wolf, thank you for having me in your program. We have conveyed to the U.S. government our willingness to have a dialogue to try to solve all our problems and to normalize relations between our two countries. In this specific case we have made clear to the U.S. government as you said that we are ready to have a negotiation in order to try to find a solution, a humanitarian solution to Mr. Gross’ case on a reciprocal basis.

I am not — we are not advancing any specific formula. It has to be discussed with the U.S. government because the U.S. government has a direct responsibility on the situation for the situation of Mr. Alan Gross, but again, we have been waiting for a response on the side of the U.S. government on this specific matter.

BLITZER: So there are no active discussions or negotiations underway right now between the Cuban government and the U.S. government to try to free Alan Gross?

VIDAL: We have conveyed to the U.S. side that we are ready to sit down to talk and to have a negotiation on this matter, and as I mentioned already to you, we have been waiting for a response. We are ready to do that.

BLITZER: Is there, from your perspective, is there a linkage between the release of Alan Gross and the release of what’s called the “Cuban five”?

VIDAL: Again, we are not advancing a specific solution, a specific formula. It has to be discussed among us, but definitely Cuba has legitimate concerns, humanitarian concerns related to the situation of the “Cuban five”.

BLITZER: What do you say in response to what the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN?

VIDAL: You know Mr. Gross was not working in Cuba as a volunteer, aid worker. He was detained in Cuba because of conducting a well-financed program by the U.S. government aimed at provoking changes in Cuba, attempting against Cuba’s constitutional order. So Mr. Gross when he was retained was a professional under a contract by the U.S. government fulfilling this, trying to implement this program financed by the — by some U.S. agencies.


VIDAL: But he was — he was, of course, in violation —

BLITZER: What evidence do you have that he was doing that?

VIDAL: He was convicted for violating Cuban laws, attempting against Cuba’s constitutional order is not just a crime in Cuba. It is also a crime in the United States and in many other countries and this is the reason why he was convicted because of attempting against our independence, our constitutional order.

BLITZER: Mr. Gross told me that when he brought all of the equipment in the people at the airport, the authorities saw the equipment and they said you have to pay duty on it, 100 percent. He didn’t want to pay 100 percent so they just said pay $100 and you can bring the equipment in, but they inspected all of those cell phones and all of the satellite phones, whatever he was bringing in and allowed him to bring it into the country. As a result, he says he doesn’t understand why he was arrested.

VIDAL: It has been written in some media reports Mr. Gross misled U.S.-Cuban authorities about the kind of equipment he was introducing into the country without the proper authorities and he also misled members of the Cuban- Jewish community about the purposes of his trip to Cuba and what he was doing in Cuba.

BLITZER: Alan Gross says his 90-year-old mother is dying from cancer in Texas right now. She can’t travel. She can’t get on an airplane. He would like to spend two weeks and he promises he would come back to Cuba if you let him say good-bye, in effect to his mother. What’s wrong with that?

VIDAL: In the case of Mr. Alan Gross he has started to serve his prison terms three years ago, and the conditions under which he is now do not allow him to go outside of Cuba.

BLITZER: Even for humanitarian reasons to visit his 90-year-old mother who has cancer and is dying? Are you open at all to letting him say good-bye to her?

VIDAL: In the case of Mr. Gross, we have guaranteed for him a good treatment as he himself told you. He’s in good shape. He receives specialized medical treatment, balanced meals. He receives visits, regular consular access and visits by friends, by religious and political leaders from the U.S. and other countries and we have facilitated for their families and friends all the visits they have requested so far.


BLITZER: I also asked Josefina Vidal about other issues involving U.S.-Cuba relations. I told her what I’m hearing from my U.S. sources about what Cuba could do to improve the relationship. Stand by for part two of this exclusive interview and look, look who is reading the weather forecast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rain, of course, will be heaviest over the borders and around Edinboro (ph) where it could lead to difficult conditions on the roads.



BLITZER: The case of the jailed American, Alan Gross, is a new thorn between the United States and Cuba after a half a century of tensions. I spoke about the prospects of improved U.S.-Cuban relations with Josefina Vidal, the head of North American Affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry.


BLITZER: What do you think of President Obama and his efforts over these past three and a half years to reach out to try to improve relations between the United States and Cuba?

VIDAL: This is our position, I mean, for many years the Cuban government has been conveying to the U.S. side our willingness to have a comprehensive, political dialogue with the United States to solve all our historical problems and to move on in order to have a productive, beneficial relationship for the benefit of our both people, and this is our position. We have related (ph) that to the U.S. government and we are continuing — are willing to have the possibility to see that future for our two countries.

BLITZER: Is there any dialogue under way right now between your government and the Obama administration?

VIDAL: We have had talks in the last two or three years. As soon as the new president, President Obama took office, some level of official dialogue that suffered a lot during the previous administration that was established and we have had our biannual migration talks and we have talked — we have conveyed in those meetings the position I just described to you about Cuba’s willingness to — for the best of our two countries, to find a civilized — civilized (INAUDIBLE) with the United States.

BLITZER: Are you hopeful? Are you optimistic that the relationship will improve over these next few months?

VIDAL: We are always hopeful. We have been waiting for that moment for more than 50 years, but we are still strong believers that the future is possible for the good and the benefit of the U.S., of Cuba, of our both mutual national interests and for our people.

BLITZER: Based on my conversations with very high U.S. officials, Ms. Vidal, I can tell you that if you were to make a gesture and release Alan Gross, he served already two and a half years that would go a long way in setting the stage for an improved U.S.- Cuban relationship.

In that regard I have to be honest with you, Wolf, and tell you that we see this statement as a new pretext by the U.S. side in order to — not to move on, on our bilateral relationships. We have seen all over our history that any time one pretext disappears, there is another one ready at hand in order to try to justify not to normalize the relations with Cuba.

BLITZER: It sounds like a relatively easy situation for you, test the United States, send Alan Gross home and see what happens. If there’s no improvement, what have you lost?

VIDAL: As I mentioned to you in the beginning of our interview, this is something that Cuba cannot do unilaterally, because there is a responsibility by the United States government for the situation of Mr. Alan Gross, so this is a topic, this is a matter, an issue that has to be discussed directly between Cuba and the United States in order to look for a solution.

BLITZER: And you’re saying the U.S. is not ready to discuss Alan Gross’ situation with Cuba? Is that what you’re saying?

VIDAL: We have been waiting for a response and a reaction by the United States government to what we have conveyed about our willingness to sit down, to have a conversation and to initiate a negotiation on that matter.

BLITZER: We will continue this conversation, Josefina Vidal. Thank you so much for joining us and we will continue to talk. We’ll stay in close touch.

VIDAL: It is my pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.


BLITZER: And we’ve received State Department reaction to my interview with Josefina Vidal. Let me read the statement that they gave us. “We reject the suggestion that this is a matter for negotiation. Alan Gross is unjustifiably imprisoned and his case is not related to the ‘Cuban five’. Josefina Vidal’s statements only seem to reinforce Alan Gross’ view that he is a hostage of the Cuban regime.”

The statement goes on. “The continuing imprisonment of Alan Gross is deplorable, it is wrong, and it is a violation of human decency as well as human rights. We raise this issue with the Cuban government at every possible opportunity. We call on people around the world to raise this issue with the Cuban government because Mr. Gross deserves to come home.”

The U.S. statement adds “we will continue to use every appropriate channel to press the Cuban government for Mr. Gross’ release so he can return to his family where he belongs. To date, the government of Cuba has presented no realistic proposal for Alan Gross’ release”, that statement coming in from the State Department. By the way, the full interview with Josefina Vidal we posted on our website, CNN.com/TheSituationRoom.

Mariela Castro on Ending the Embargo – Swapping Cuban Five – Jailed U.S. Contractor Alan Gross

By DemocracyNOW – Amy Goodman

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, calls on the U.S. to release five Cubans jailed for spying on anti-Cuban militants in Florida in exchange for Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen jailed in Cuba. The Cuban Five were convicted in 2001 for committing espionage in southern Florida. They say they weren’t spying on the U.S., but trying to monitor right-wing violent Cuban groups that have organized attacks on Cuba. “I want the Cuban Five to go back to Cuba and for Alan Gross to go home,” Castro says. “I want an end to the financial, commercial and economic blockade that violates the human rights of the Cuban people, and the normalization of relations between both countries.”