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No comparison to case of Cuban Five

Report details crimes of Alan Gross

Published Feb 27, 2012 9:22 PM

An Associated Press article by Desmond Butler refutes U.S. State Department pronouncements about Alan Gross, a 62-year-old contractor convicted in 2009 and now serving a 15-year prison sentence for undermining socialist Cuba’s integrity and independence. The AP article, dated Feb. 12 but written in October, is based on Gross’ own reports, filed in the U.S., where he documents his covert actions in Cuba.

According to the article, Gross traveled to Cuba five times in 2009 on tourist visas. He represented himself as a member of a Jewish humanitarian group, not a U.S. government employee. He engaged and endangered unwitting co-travelers to act as mules to conceal component parts used for the three-city secret communication network he was building. He described these acts as “risky business.” The article reports, “On his final trip, he brought in a ‘discreet’ SIM card — or subscriber identity module card — intended to keep satellite phone transmissions from being pinpointed within 250 miles (400 kilometers), if they were detected at all.”

The article continues, “The type of SIM card used by Gross is not available on the open market and is distributed only to governments, according to an official at a satellite telephone company familiar with the technology and a former U.S. intelligence official who has used such a chip. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the technology, said the chips are provided most frequently to the Defense Department and the CIA, but also can be obtained by the State Department, which oversees USAID.”

Fulton Armstrong, a U.S. government intelligence insider, explained, “The regime-change focus of the [USAID] programs is explicit: Rather than fund them under education and cultural authorities, the Bush and Obama administrations have insisted on citing authorities in the Helms-Burton ‘Libertad Act’ prescribing a post-Castro future for Cuba.” (Miami Herald, Dec. 25)

The AP report is in sharp contrast to the State Department view that Gross was “simply facilitating connectivity between Havana’s Jewish community and the rest of the world” (state.gov, Dec. 2) and a Washington Post editorial calling Gross “a would-be humanitarian who got himself caught up in the U.S.-Cuban dispute over U.S. efforts to promote civil society on the island.” (Dec. 31)

Cuba answers Washington Post

In an online response to the Dec. 31 Washington Post editorial, René Gon­zález, one of the Cuban Five, pointed out that Cuba is prevented from connecting to the underwater communications cable just north of the island due to the U.S. blockade. “That the government that prohibits the whole island to connect to the web then devises a clandestine operation to decide which Cubans will have the privilege to circumvent the very prohibition that it imposes on [Cuba’s] citizenry can hardly be considered of a humanitarian character.”

González was recently released from prison but prevented by the U.S. from returning to Cuba and reuniting with his spouse, Olga Salanueva, who is denied a U.S. entry visa.

A response from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., signed by the Deputy Chief of Mission, was never published by the Washington Post. In addition to correcting the record on Gross and pointing out that “the Cuban Government has conveyed to the U.S. Government its willingness to find a humanitarian solution to the case of Mr. Alan Gross on reciprocal humanitarian bases,” this letter “notes that readers are misled when the Five Cubans in prison in the U.S. for helping to avoid terrorism against Cuba are described [in the Post editorial] as ‘spies … infiltrating U.S. military installations in South Florida.’

“The Cuban Five have already served 13 painful years in jail, far from their spouses, children and relatives. They did not infiltrate U.S. military facilities. They were monitoring the terrorist activity of extremist Cuban groups in New Jersey and Florida seeking to preempt their further terrorist actions and to gather evidence about them that could be used to arrest those terrorists operating on U.S. territory.

“Thanks to the work of the Five, Cuba was able to share with the FBI — with appropriate knowledge of and approval by then President Bill Clinton — … extensive details on the campaign of terror being planned and executed by these individuals. That evidence … was employed against the Five Cubans, in a legal process corrupted by political motivations. … [T]he U.S. government secretly paid journalists to write prejudicial articles in the media at the time of the trial, thereby undermining the defendants’ due process rights.” (cubaminrex.cu/english)

Precedent for humanitarian gestures

Before the winter holidays, Cuban President Raul Castro released 2,900 prisoners in a humanitarian act for those who had completed most of their sentences, were aged or in poor health. In contrast to the prisoner release in Cuba, the rare mass release in U.S. jurisdictions is usually based on court orders to alleviate overcrowded and inhumane conditions. The U.S. prison-industrial complex incarcerates the largest number of people of any country, both per capita and in actual numbers.

When former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson went to Cuba seeking Gross’ release last fall and suggested that there be a “swap,” it was pointed out that there is no equivalence between the case of Alan Gross and the case of the Cuban Five. Gross is guilty of actions to subvert the legitimate and sovereign Cuban government. The Cuban Five took no action against the U.S. government and are unjustly imprisoned. Gross is just beginning his prison sentence while the Cuban Five are in their 14th year, suffering restrictions on or denial of family visits and enduring very harsh conditions, including solitary confinement in “the hole,” considered a form of torture.

In 1979 the U.S. released four Puerto Rican political prisoners — Lolita Lebron, Oscar Collazo, Rafael Cancel Miranda and Irving Flores Rodríguez. Ten days later Cuba released prisoners. Attorney Jose Pertierra called these releases a delicately negotiated, humanitarian “Gesture for Gesture” in an article by that title published in Counterpunch in March 2009.

While there is certainly no equal sign between the Cuban Five heroes and Alan Gross, the 1979 prison releases prove there is a precedent for the U.S. to put aside its enmity toward socialist Cuba in order to work out a humanitarian solution, “gesture for gesture.”