U.S. agent’s family calls for negotiations with Cuba

As of Dec. 3, U.S. Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross has been in jail in Cuba for three years after his arrest on Dec. 3, 2009. He was subsequently convicted of installing secret communication devices in three cities on the island and sentenced to 15 years. On Nov. 16, Gross’ family filed suit against USAID and the U.S. government, calling on the U.S. to sit down with the Cuban government to discuss releasing him.

On Dec. 1 and again on Dec. 2, viewers of NBC evening network news saw a report by investigative journalist Michael Isikoff that included coverage of Gerardo Hernandez and his spouse Adriana Perez. One of the Cuban 5, Hernandez was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years for protecting his Cuban homeland from hotel bombers and other paramilitary gangs based in Florida — perpetrators of a violent war against Cubans and tourists. This war has taken thousands of lives over more than 50 years.

Essentially, Hernandez and his four comrades were in the U.S. to provide ­intelligence to Cuba to defend against U.S.-based terrorism. Its aim is to defeat the sovereign right of the Cuban people to choose their own socialist economic system.

Isikoff’s story revolved around the anniversary of the arrest of Alan Gross. Coached by the U.S. State Department, the media spin in 2009 falsely portrayed Gross as a humanitarian providing better internet communication for Cuba’s Jewish community. Not even staunch repetition could make that story fly after an Associated Press investigative report by Desmond Butler broke on Feb.13, 2012.

Originally written in October 2011, the heavily fact-checked article revealed that Gross, traveling on a tourist visa, involved other innocent travelers to transport his equipment in their luggage. But Gross was a U.S. government contractor installing “a specialized mobile phone chip that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to make satellite signals virtually impossible to track,” among other devices. (Business Week, Feb. 13, 2012)

In a new turn, the Gross family filed suit in U.S. federal court asking for damages from Gross’s employer, Development Alternatives, Inc., and the United States of America. They are now calling on the U.S. government to negotiate with Cuba without preconditions. Cuba has already expressed willingness to discuss the situation of Alan Gross and other issues of mutual interest, but so far the U.S. has refused.

The obvious solution is a prisoner exchange of Gross for the Cuban 5, as the NBC coverage implied.