Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Alan Gross’ Category

Alan Gross, American Jailed in Cuba, Vows to Come Home ‘Dead or Alive’

In Alan Gross on April 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm


From NBC News

Alan Gross, the American subcontractor jailed in Cuba, has vowed that he will return to the United States within a year “dead or alive” and is pleading for the White House to intervene, his lawyer said Wednesday.

In an interview from Havana, attorney Scott Gilbert told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that after more than four years in 23-hour lockup, his client can’t face the thought of another decade behind bars. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

 “He will return to the United States before his 66th birthday, dead or alive,” Gilbert said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” after meeting with Gross and Cuban offcials.

Gross, 65, lost 11 pounds during a nine-day hunger strike earlier this year. It was unclear if his pledge meant he might undertake another one.

“I think Alan can be volatile, as would be anyone confined in this situation. And I take Alan’s statement not as a threat but as expression of extraordinary frustration and determination and, and as he said to me yesterday, continued hope.”

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for subversive activities. Gilbert said that Cuban officials reiterated their offer to begin talks about Gross’ possible release with no pre-conditions, but the U.S. has balked.

“We have asked the president to engage,” Gilbert said. “We believe the administration should do whatever it takes to free Alan, who was in Cuba in the first place on U.S.government business.”

Gross spends all but one hour a day in a cell with two other men, his lawyer said. He is allowed two short phone calls a week and his meals are “limited and mediocre,” he said.

 “He does not intend to endure another year of this solitary confinement,” Gilbert said.
— Tracy Connor


Watch  live video from Havana on Andrea Mitchell Reports   @NBC News  Havana

Action and Reaction

In Alan Gross, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Politics on February 20, 2014 at 11:47 am


Margarita Alarcón Perea

Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This law is exemplified by what happens if we step off a boat onto the bank of a lake: as we move in the direction of the shore, the boat tends to move in the opposite direction (leaving us face down in the water, if we aren’t careful!).

Bashing yourself in the water aside, politics are also constantly affected by this third law.  In recent weeks , ever since the “handshake” during Nelson Mandela’s funeral services, one saw a constant flow of news on Cuba and the United States. Granted, the “handshake” was no more than a show of common courtesy, but the media took it up to mean so much more it grew to be hilarious. Other things did take special meaning in what could be deemed steps towards the much belated ending of hostilities between both nations.

The bilateral talks between Cuba and the United States. Judy Gross´s statements pleading to President Obama to find a solution taking “any steps necessary”, which include taking Cuba up on its longstanding offer to exchange Mr Gross for the remaining  Cuban Five imprisoned in the US. A bipartisan group of over 60 senators requesting the same regarding the case of Alan Gross. The recent poll taken by the Atlantic Council in Washington which shows an overwhelming majority in the US, including Florida favors normalizing relations with Cuba, putting an end to the embargo and freeing travel to and fro. Senator Bernie Sanders came down on a brief visit to meet with Alan Gross and later go to the Guantanamo prison camps. The Havana leg of the trip gave Sen. Sanders  the chance to speak to the press briefly where he said he hoped a solution to the Gross case would be reached soon as well as better relations with Cuba.

There is an obvious trend, the US and Cuba are advancing towards finally breaking bread, ever so slowly, but the trend is there. That would be the “action” if we apply Newton’s third law. The “reaction” unfortunately is not what we would hope for.

Every time in history that there has been a positive “action” from within the parties involved in resolving the conflict between Cuba and the US, the “reaction” has come from groups of either within the US Congress or Cubans on the island somehow involved with a foreign element. This time is no exception.

With the publication of a piece this morning by AFP, we read that a group inside Cuba is preparing to launch a campaign to gather signatures in order to change the constitution. This is by all means a valid attempt at producing change inside the island. It is in fact, the way Cuba establishes the changing or modification of its constitution. The problem with this “reaction” is that when reading the piece one learns that “the reform bid would bring together several Cuba opposition groups and actively launch in May with events in Cuba, the US states of Florida and New Jersey, Puerto Rico and Spain.”

Why is it always that when a group or person decides to change something in Cuba foreigners  are always somehow in tow or dare I say, the inciters?  Do they necessarily need the backing? Do they not know how to form dissent within their own ranks? Is this such a difficult feat to achieve?

Rather than holding hands with foreign interests, it would do Cuba and the US both a lot of good if the “reaction” to actions such as the ones that have been occurring were born from within the island by islanders with no other parties involved.

If not, falling on your face in the water is the only thing we will be expecting. 

Former U.S. diplomat Patrick Ryan: Time to drop Cuba from terror list

In Alan Gross, Cuba, Politics, US on April 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm



By Former U.S. diplomat Patrick Ryan


From The Hill

As a former U.S. diplomat who authored the 2007-09 Country Reports on Terrorism for Nigeria and visited Cuba many times on official business, I believe keeping Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is absurd and highly political, particularly given its glaring omissions. 

Where is North Korea, which has conducted small-scale attacks against the South over the past several years — and recently threatened a nuclear first strike against the United States? Despite the fact that Cuba maintains a capable espionage network, no credible intelligence sources claim it is currently a security threat to us. Cuba’s listing is about Florida electoral politics. 

A small minority of Cuban-American politicians has been dictating U.S. foreign policy toward one of our most geographically proximate neighbors for too long — and using the highly questionable terrorist listing to justify continuation of the Cold War-era embargo. 

Ironically, these members of Congress support Cubans’ ability freedom to travel to the United States but not Americans’ freedom to travel to Cuba, and use the terrorist justification for this. If we truly want to undermine the Castro regime, the best way would be to end the listing, including the embargo and travel ban, and flood Cuba with American visitors, as well as our products and democratic ideas. Ending the restrictions would also demonstrably help the Cuban people — a stated aim of these same politicians. 

In comparison, most Vietnamese-Americans — who also lost a civil war to communists, 16 years after the Cubans — long ago accepted reality and supported the 1994 normalization of relations with Vietnam. The U.S. buried the hatchet and engaged a country whose human rights record, like Cuba’s — and China’s — has been disappointing, and with whom we were actually involved in a war that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans. 

So why not Cuba? 

The fact that members of the Basque separatist group ETA have retired to the island with the blessing of the Spanish government, that FARC members are residing in Cuba during peace talks hosted by Havana and supported by the Colombian government and that various fugitives from American justice — none of whom have been accused of terrorism, by the way — have lived in exile there since the 1970s, are simply not credible arguments for maintaining the designation.

Frankly, it’s well past time that U.S. policymakers had the courage to tell the most vocal Miami exiles to acknowledge reality and move on, as many of them already have. Fortunately, the younger generation of Cubans in Miami isn’t as obsessed with the island as their forebears — and Cubans are no longer a majority of the Latin American population in South Florida.   

President Obama won Florida twice, and is in a unique position to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and push Congress to end the embargo in his second term. As Cuba continues its sporadic offshore oil exploration with foreign partners, including U.S. allies, it would seem advantageous for it to be a part of the process, in order to help ensure there will not be another disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the economic benefits it would receive from increased exports to the island. The only way to do so is to take Cuba off the terrorism list.

The Castros have used the listing and embargo as excuses for their economic mismanagement and the dismal plight of ordinary Cubans for decades. The last time momentum existed in the U.S. Congress towards lifting it, the Cuban government shot down two small planes flown by the exile group “Brothers to the Rescue” that allegedly violated their airspace, ensuring the embargo and listing would continue. 

I am well aware of the poor human rights record of the regime and am not an apologist for it. The incarceration of Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who brought communications gear into Cuba, contrary to Cuban law, is regrettable, but should not hold U.S.-Cuban relations hostage. Nevertheless, it’s time for a new approach, as the current anachronistic policy has failed miserably for more than a half century.


Ryan is a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who previously worked on Capitol Hill. Recently having returned after 14 years away, he has a degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins and is currently consulting in D.C. on issues that have nothing to do with Cuba, the embargo, or potential business interests there.


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Spring is in the air

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on April 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Spring is in the air. It is a constant much like Pi, happens every March 21st whether it’s snowing or raining or bright and sunny.  Its striking  that on this same date,  March 21st, was also the birth of Benito Juarez, known as the Benemerito of the Americas, title bestowed on him by the people and government of Colombia on May 1st of the year 1865, because of his unrelenting struggle to free Mexico and gain independence.

While president of Mexico, Juarez had a maxim that lives on today in the Mexican nation: “Among individuals and nations alike, respect for the rights of other people is what constitutes peace”. This statement always comes to mind when I think of the place Cuba has held in the region since its independence from Spain in the XIX century.

Cuba’s rights as a nation have never been respected by other nations or individuals, ever.  After the island garnered its independence from Spain the Paris Treaty left the island at the bequest of the Government of the United States and it remained so till 1959 when the Revolution of Fidel Castro triumphed establishing a socialist government in the country. Although the Cuban Revolution brought about much needed change on a social level, educating the uneducated, bettering conditions outside of the capital and establishing universal health care as the main government strategies to help its people, the country still depended because of an embargo imposed by the US on the next best option, the Soviet Union, and again, Cuba depended on someone else and much of its sovereignty was put on hold. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union as a country and a concept, Cuba was left stranded economically, politically and even socially.

Those were very difficult times, but the social benefits that still existed on the island were still stronger than the hardship and the Cuban people continued in their strife to advance, even if alone. The embargo against the island continued as it does today, but the rest of the world began to slowly open up to Cuba, and not just because of His Holiness John Paul II desire that this be so.  Cuba had proven over the years that it had something to offer and that sovereignty and independence were not to be gambled with. Cuba has never been a satellite of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, although the relationship with it  and with Hugo Chavez was strong. The difference between the two moments in time is simple: during the first forty some years of the Revolution the country had to build itself up from scratch, by the time Chavez and his oil and social justice powered revolution came to power, Cuba already had sufficient bargaining chips to stand on its own and level the playing field. No longer were the stakes as lopsided as they had been in the past.

The Soviet Union is no longer around, neither is Chavez,  and his Revolution looks to be walking on unsteady ground, which is sad not only for Cuba on a personal and national note, it is also sad for the rest of Latin America as a whole. For no matter what one may opine on President Chavez, he did put the continent on the forefront and he did bring much needed changes to both the nation of Bolivar and the rest of the region. Yet the one thing that has not changed, the one thing that remains the same, is not just spring on the 21st of March. The one thing that remains the same is that on April 30th, well into spring, the secretary of state of the United States will have to submit his recommendation to the president on whether to keep Cuba on the list of terrorist nations or not.  Keeping Cuba on the list means no chance on earth of giving the president even the slightest chance of moving forward on bettering relations. Relations which if were to compare to a tennis ball, are now, and have been on the White House´s court for a number of years now.

More recently during the last Congressional visit to the island when President Raul Castro told US Congress members that a sit down with all cards on the table was in the offer.

It is true, Cuba has Alan Gross in jail. But he is being detained because he came down with an agenda to help undermine the Cuban government or regime, however you want to put it. Cuba has the same although slightly different situation in the US. Five Cuban intelligence agents are still in prison in the US. But their crime was never trying to undermine the US government to which they not only had no access, they also had no intention of doing, and quite frankly it would have been the most foolish of intentions.

The Cuban Five were in the US collecting information from US based paramilitary terrorist organizations in Miami which have been plotting, conspiring and bringing about terrorist acts against the Cuban people for over 50 years. They not only plot against Cuba and its people on the island, they also plot and have achieved to harm, destroy, terrorize and kill those who, whether Cuban or not, have the interest in forging better more rational relations with the island.  These terrorist groups have names, Omega 7, Alpha 66, Vigilia Mambisa, Brothers to the Rescue  and others. They have henchmen and they have leaders, one of which is infamously well known in Miami as one of the cities proud citizens, Luis Posada Carriles, a man who has more blood on his hands than most have running through their veins.  The Cuban Five infiltrated the US under false identities, this is true. They also infiltrated these terrorist organizations under false pretenses  But they did all of this in order to protect Cuba and those who want a normal life between Cuba and the US. News flash: they also, did most if not all of this, with the acquiescence of both the US government and the FBI.

Exchanging them for Alan Gross may not seem like the logical thing to do, but not on the US side, after all, Gross was accused of something he did do and something which is illegal not only in Cuba and the rest of the world, it is also illegal in the US: in theory, you are not allowed to openly try to topple foreign regimes in the United States of America. Heck, even Alan Gross accepts responsibility for his actions and recommends he be exchanged for the Cuban Five.

Now,  Secretary John Kerry has to decide if Cuba, an island that has never committed a terrorist act against the US or any other nation for that matter, should remain on an infamous obscene list.  Cuba deserves to be treated with the same respect it does its neighbors and colleagues in the world arena, it doesn’t set standards, it doesn’t disrespect others rights to decide, it thus, should be commended for its desire, as put by Juarez , to establish peace.

Unlike the unvarying Cherry Blossoms in DC and Pi, let’s hope Mr Kerry’s decision breaks one constant this Spring.

Cross Cuba off the blacklist

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Fidel Castro Ruz, History, Politics, US on March 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

The nation has long since changed the behavior that earned it a U.S. designation as a sponsor of terrorism.

Editorial in todays Los Angeles Times

Washington has for three decades kept Cuba on a list of countries that sponsor terrorism, even though it has long since changed the behavior that earned it that distinction. By all accounts, Cuba remains on the list — alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria — because it disagrees with the United States’ approach to fighting international terrorism, not because it supports terrorism. That’s hardly a sensible standard.

The State Department says it has no plans to remove Cuba from the list. But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who recently led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Havana, is urging President Obama to consider a range of policy changes toward Cuba, including delisting it, which would not require congressional approval. Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism carries heavy sanctions, including financial restrictions and a ban on defense

None of the reasons that landed Cuba on the list in 1982 still exist. A 2012 report by the State Department found that Havana no longer provides weapons or paramilitary training to Marxist rebels in Latin America or Africa. In fact, Cuba is currently hosting peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and President Juan Manuel Santos’ government. And Cuban officials condemned the 9.9/11 attacks on the United States.

Moreover, keeping Cuba on the list undermines Washington’s credibility in Latin America. During last year’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, presidents from the hemisphere expressed frustration that the U.S. remains frozen in its relations with Cuba, enforcing an embargo that dates to the Kennedy administration.

Cuba is not a model state. The government often fails to observe human rights. Its imprisonment of Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was sentenced to a 15-year jail term in 2009 after bringing communications equipment into the country, has prompted repeated visits to the island by U.S. officials seeking to secure his release.

The list, however, is reserved not for human rights violators but for countries that export or support terrorism. Clinging to that designation when the evidence for it has passed fails to recognize Cuba’s progress and reinforces doubts about America’s willingness to play fair in the region.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Servicio gringo, Revés cubano

In Alan Gross, Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CAFE, Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on February 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Hace unos días el Presidente Barack Obama le concedió una entrevista en la Casa Blanca a José Díaz Balart de Telemundo, y si, es familia de los otros. La conversación giró alrededor de la reforma migratoria, y el control de armas  como los proyectos más importantes para el Presidente durante este, su segundo mandadato. Por supuesto, siendo un Díaz Balart y trabajando para Telemundo, Cuba tenía que estar en la palestra. Esto lo damos por sentado, lo que no se podía dar por sentado fueron las respuestas del Presidente.

El presidente no tenía mucho nuevo que decir, y no fueron las palabras en si lo que me llamaron la atención, fue todo lo que dijo “entre líneas.” No le dedicó oraciones interminables a hablar sobre lo que Cuba tenía que hacer o dejar de hacer, muy propio de los discursos de antaño. Ni tampoco desestimó las preguntas con un simple comentario sobre los derechos humanos en Cuba o algún que otro bloguero. Dijo cosas como “ Creo que podremos ver progreso en estos próximos cuatro años. Y estoy felíz de participar en el.” Dijo que era un “camino de doble vía”. Antes de todo esto, por supuesto, tuvo que hablar de “libertades básicas de la prensa y de asamblea”, pero de ahí pasó a “no pretendemos que cada país opere como lo hacemos nosotros.”

Esto, por supuesto, el hecho que haya hablado con tanta franqueza acerca del tema, le llamó la atención a los funcionarios cubanos y esto llevó a que la Directora del Departamento de Norte América del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Josefina Vidal le dedicara un tiempo a responderle. La señora Vidal le llama la atención al presidente Obama y le implora que reflexione seriamente sobre los cambios que se están llevando a cabo en Cuba y deje de prestarle atención a las voces que lo rodean. Fue un brillante juego de tenis al estilo de Wimbledon, un servicio agradable fue devuelto con revés preciso.

Es un partido lento el que vislumbramos. Tomará más tiempo que los juegos clásicos de Grand Slam a los cuales estamos acostumbrados. Pero lo importante es jugar.

No podemos olvidar que cuando la Sra. Vidal habla de “aquellos que lo rodean” no está divulgando específicamente a quienes se refiere pero ella está muy al tanto de la realidad que rodea a Barack Obama respecto a Cuba.  El hecho de que haya escogido a un poeta cubano americano sin historia política específica, cuyos padres no parecen tener vinculación alguna con el enjambre que es la comunidad cubano americana en Miami  o en Nueva Jersey, fue algo que le llamó la atención a muchos. Incluso más que cuando la primera dama escogió a un diseñador cubano Americano para el vestido que usó durante la primera inauguración.

Richard Blanco es ahora la diana de la retorica anti cubana, pero no aquella que se dedica a la política específicamente, no, esa no. Ahora le están gritando oprobios tanto al presidente como a él y lo hacen desde Europa.

No voy a desgastarme en copiar y pegar las sandeces, inexactitudes, incoherencias y demás barbaridades aquí ahora, dejo al lector con el derecho de buscar por si solo lo que han dicho algunos.  Lo que si recomiendo es que lean esto escrito por un (al parecer) cubano americano desde Miami, profesor del Miami Dade College y publicado en inglés en el sitio del Huffington Post.

Escritora cubana Supuestamente amistosa hacia los gay cuestiona la masculinidad de Richard Blanco

Ariel Gonzalez

 Era inevitable que escoger a Richard Blanco como el poeta para la segunda inauguración del Presidente Obama provocara reacción de parte un segmento bastante vociferante de la comunidad cubana en el exilio. Pero resulta una sorpresa cuando leí que Zoe Valdés, una escritora de prestigio, publicando un artículo en el sitio de derecha Babalu Blog. El ataque contra Blanco es digresivo, se contradice y está sustentado en falsas premisas. Sin embargo, es un llamado de alerta, de advertencia contra permitir que las emociones provocadas por la ideología se coloquen por encima del rigor estilístico y el sentido común.

 Lean el articulo complete aquí.

El momento de actuar, de hacer algo, se hace tan evidente e inminente, que algunas de estas personas están perdiendo los estribos. Le lanzan dardos a diestra y siniestra a cualquiera que tenga un ápice de sentido común o de sentido de pertenencia con su historia, su pasado, su vida.  Pero ya no vivimos en las décadas de los atroces actos de terror contra las voces de la sensatez; los tiempos son distintos, y nosotros también.  

El presidente Obama tiene ahora una ventana, evidentemente está abriendo las persianas y está mirando hacia afuera, ayudémoslo a limpiar la mugre que lleva décadas ahí, empañándole la vista.

Citando al propio Richard Blanco: “(Según la communidad cubana en el exilio) Castro…destruyó el paraiso que fue Cuba. Sin embargo, mi profeor de historia de bachillerato me contó de una Cuba pre-revolucionaria como una isla abandonada llena de corrupcion, y alababa a Castro por sus reformas sociales, citando estadisticas que apoyaban esto mostrando las mejoras dramaticas en los servicios de salud, y en la educacción; y muchos intelectuales que conocí en la universidad glorificaban a la Cuba post revolucion como una sociedad modelo. ¿Quien dice la verdad?¿Cual es la verdadera Cuba? ¿Quien nos cuenta la version correcta? ” 

Cuba da un pasito pa´ lante, EEUU responde con uno pa´ tras

In Alan Gross, CELAC, Politics, US on February 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Hay gente que son imposibles de complacer. Por ejemplo, tomemos como punto de partida a los cambios llevados a cabo recientemente en Cuba. A lo largo de los últimos cinco años ha habido un crecimiento considerable en el establecimiento de negocios en el sector privado en la isla con la apertura de tiendas, paladares, hostales, barberías y peluquerías. Negocios caseros aparecen como la verdolaga respondiendo a las regulaciones del estado y a las necesidades de la población. Recientemente, nuevas regulaciones permiten que cubanos en la isla establezcan cooperativas en localidades que antes eran administradas por el estado. Ya los cubanos pueden disponer de sus bienes como viviendas y automóviles y venderlos o compáralos a su gusto. La propiedad privada de nuevo se considera un bien adquirido a través del esfuerzo digno y no algo que automáticamente lo pone a uno en las mismas filas de un capitalista inescrupuloso de antaño.

Ahora bien, el más radical, sin discusión,   puesto en práctica  en Cuba y fuera de ella ha sido la eliminación del permiso de salida. Los cubanos no tendrán que pasar por horas de papeleo innecesario ni colas interminables para poder salir de la isla. Y más aun, las condiciones que permiten que un cubano viaje han cambiado radicalmente. Solo aquellos individuos menores de edad o con condenas pendientes o que ocupan cargos de alto rango o cuyo trabajo pudiera considerarse seguridad del estado, tendrán limitaciones a  la hora de viajar fuera de la isla. El resto es libre como el viento. Esta medida también afecta a los cubanos residentes en el exterior. Con la nueva enmienda, los cubanos que antes tenían prohibido volver a la isla, ya podrán regresar cada vez que quieran. El caso más notorio hasta la fecha ha sido del pelotero José Ariel Contreras, quien luego de su deserción ha jugado para los Yankees de Nueva York y los Medias Blancas de Chicago y quien estuvo recientemente en la Habana de visita y pasó 10 días en el país.

La mayoría de los analistas coinciden en que todos estos cambios se deben a las diferencias en manejo de gobierno entre Fidel y Raúl Castro. Algunos incluso discuten que Raúl Castro está dando pasos lentos a favor de conciliar las cosas dentro y fuera de la isla. Cuidadosamente revisa cada uno de los aspectos dentro del sistema de gobierno y de legislación en el país a lo largo de estos más de 50 años para así ir modificando aquellos que han ido afectando a la población, tanto fuera como dentro de la isla

Al final, el paso más importante siempre se considera que se toma para conciliar las cosas con el inquilino de la Casa Blanca, y francamente, si Cuba quiere que Obama levante el embargo y se siente a la mesa con la isla, le tienen que dar algo que justifique ese paso con sus detractores.

Aquí viene la parte que me tiene entre las lágrimas y la carcajada. Hace ya más de una década, un grupo dentro del Congreso de EEUU, conocido como el Cáucaso Negro, viajó a la Habana y se entrevistó con Fidel Castro. Entre las cosas que hablaron estuvo la propuesta de Fidel de entrenar a estudiantes norteamericanos en la especialidad de medicina, siempre y cuando a su regreso a los EEUU se incorporaran a los barrios pobres y más necesitados de asistencia médica a ejercer la profesión. Fue así como nació la inclusión de los EEUU en el proyecto de la Escuela latino americana de Medicina. Los legisladores estadounidenses regresaron a su país con la propuesta pero no fue hasta que el Reverendo Lucious Walker y la organización IFCO tomó las riendas en el asunto, que comenzaron a llegar los primeros estudiantes a la isla. Hasta la fecha, la ELAM ha graduado a más de 80 médicos procedentes de los EEUU y en estos momentos hay más de 100 llevando a cabo estudios en Cuba.

Cuba lleva años “exportando” solidaridad hacia América Latina, Asia, el Pacifico Sur Y los EEUU. De manera gratuita, a la usanza de la verdadera solidaridad y en un campo que pudiera bien ser el talón de Aquiles de cualquier administración presidencial en EEUU.

Ahí está, prueba irrefutable que Cuba no exporta revolución ni valores socialistas, exporta educación, y salud. ¿Queda claro, no? Pues, al parecer a todos no les resulta así. Cada vez que el gobierno de Cuba da un paso, positivo y conciliador para con sus propios ciudadanos y por el bien de estos, y hacia mejorar las relaciones con su vecino más cercano, hay quienes simplemente no lo soportan.

Hay quienes prefieren hacer esto:

Proyecto de ley en Florida evitará otorgar licencias a médicos estadounidenses que estudien en Cuba

Un proyecto de ley presentado por dos legisladores de la Florida evitaría que doctores estadounidenses que estudien en Cuba puedan recibir licencia para ejercer en Florida. Los legisladores Manny Díaz Jr y Rene García, ambos de la ciudad de Hialeah pretenden evitar los viajes de doctores estadounidenses a Cuba para estudiar o recibir entrenamiento.

“Los estudiantes de Estados Unidos que hacen la vista gorda a los abusos de derechos humanos básicos y civiles en Cuba no poseen la claridad moral de atender a los pacientes en la Florida” dijeron los legisladores a “El Nuevo Herald”. Cuba ofrece un programa gratuito de entrenamiento médico para ciudadanos estadounidenses y de otras partes del mundo el cual Manny Diaz Jr y Rene García califico de ser una herramienta de propaganda de los Castro.

Los legisladores que el proyecto de ley no aplicaría a aquellos que estudiaron en Cuba antes de venir a Estados Unidos por lo que los exiliados cubanos que se graduaron de medicina en la isla no estarían afectados. El legislador Rene García es también responsable de la ley que pretende prohibir a compañías que tienen sucursales trabajando en Cuba obtener contratos con el estado de la Florida.

Ahí lo tienen. Cuba da uno o más pasos a favor de la lógica y hay quienes en el Congreso de los EEUU le ponen una llave inmovilizadora a la Casa Blanca y a los ciudadanos de los EEUU. La ironía en todo esto es que en la declaración del Representante Manny Díaz y el Senador René García hay un detalle interesantísimo. Los norteamericanos que pretendan estudiar medicina en Cuba no podrán ejercer en la Florida según lo propuesto por estos señores. En cambio, todo aquel cubano que se haya graduado de la misma carrera de medicina, en el mismo país (Cuba) y cursando el mismo exacto programa académico podrá ir a los EEUU y ejercer la carrera sin problemas de ningún tipo. Entiéndase, un cubano ejerciendo como medico en el programa  solidario con Venezuela o Ecuador o Bolivia, ese, si podrá irse a los EEUU donde le otorgan de uno a dos años de vivienda subsidiada y una pensión para ayudarlos mientras estudian para pasar los exámenes de reválida y así poder ejercer en USA. También se les facilita una lista de ciudades donde podrán radicarse para ejercer la profesión.  Y todo esto gracias a la generosidad desconocedora del contribuyente norteamericano! Y quién sabe?! Va y para el estado de la Florida ni siquiera exigen pasar la reválida! Está clarísimo, se permite “el robo de cerebro” desde la isla, se prohíbe ofrecerle educación gratuita a los ciudadanos norteamericanos. Vaya cosa, eso sí que está bueno!

Libertad de viajes, propiedad privada, libre empresa, cambiar a Alan Gross por los Cinco, nada de eso es realmente el problema. No importa lo que haga Cuba, siempre va a haber alguien al otro lado del estrecho de la Florida que hallará una escusa, subnormal o no, tal de hacerle imposible a cualquiera en el gobierno de los EEUU, la posibilidad de poder estrecharle honesta y abiertamente la mano a la isla.  

Cuba´s hand outs

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuban 5, Politics, US on January 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Some people are just impossible to please. Take for instance the recent changes in Cuba. In the past five years there has been considerable growth in the private sector with shops, restaurants, hostels, barber shops and beauty parlors, home grown businesses have been sprouting up everywhere, complying with State regulations and with people’s needs. Recently,  new legislation will enable Cubans to run private, previously state owned, cooperatives. Cuban nationals may sell their homes and cars and buy new or old ones. Private property is once again being considered something that comes of decent hard work and values and not something that automatically places you within the ranks of Carl Icahn.

The latest dramatic change to shake the ground in Cuba and outside the island has been the elimination of the exit permit. No longer do Cubans need to go through hours and days of paperwork in order to leave the island. What is more important is that the conditions allowing a Cuban to travel have also changed dramatically. Only those individuals with criminal records, under aged without permission from both parents or legal guardians, and individuals involved in high ranking state security positions must go through a revision process. The rest, are free to fly like the wind.  This has also given Cubans living abroad since before this amendment to the law the ability to return to the island and visit, something which had unfortunately been prohibited before. Thanks to this, one of Cuba’s foremost baseball stars, Jose Ariel Contreras, who has since his defection played for the NY Yankees and the Chicago White Sox, has returned to visit his ailing mother and has been caught throwing a curve ball or two on national Cuban grounds.

Most analysts coincide that all of these changes are due to the difference in the way Fidel and Raúl Castro conduct government. Some will argue that the corner stone of this difference lays in the fact that Raúl Castro keeps taking baby steps towards appeasement inside the island and out. Carefully checking and revising all the things that have been going south for the past 50 years, and making them better.

In the end, the most important conciliatory step is always taken to conciliate with Washington and its current tenant over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and let’s face it, if Cuba wants Obama to lift the embargo and cut bread with the island, it has to give him something he can argue with.

Now, here’s the a  bit that has me in knots. Over a decade ago, a large group of members of Congress known as the Black Caucus, came down to Havana. They met with Fidel Castro and one of the things  they spoke about was Fidel’s offer to educate students from rural and disadvantaged  communities and graduate them as physicians free of charge as long as upon graduation they would return to practice medicine in their communities. The Black Caucus went back to the US with this offering. It wasn’t until Reverend Lucious Walker and IFCO took things under their wing that the program got off the ground and the reality is that to date there have been  over 80  graduates from all across the United States and as of today, over 100  are  completing their medical training.

Cuba has been “exporting” its solidarity to Latin America, Asia, the South Pacific AND the United States. Free of charge, in  the way of true solidarity and in a field that may well be the Achilles’ heal of any administration in the US.

So, there you have it, proof a long time in the making that Cuba is not exporting revolution or even socialist values, it’s exporting training and education and health care. Right? Well, some just don’t see it that way. Some just can’t take it when Cuba takes steps towards rational behaviour regarding its own citizens and issues that pertain to the way its own government and country should work to better relations with its closest neighbour.

Some prefer to do this:

–         Anti-Castro bill would ban medical licenses for American doctors trained in Cuba / Miami Herald

By Tolu Olorunnipa January 29, 2013

 Two South Florida lawmakers are pushing for a law that would stop American doctors who studied in Cuba from receiving medical licenses in Florida. Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., and Sen. Rene Garcia, both Hialeah Republicans, filed bills last week, seeking to clamp down on U.S. medical students who go to Cuba for training. ―U.S students who turn a blind eye to basic human and civil rights abuses in Cuba do not possess the moral clarity to serve patients in Florida‖ said Diaz in a statement. ―The Fidel Castro medical scholarship program is purely a propaganda tool. Hopefully this legislation will stop American citizens from participating in Cuba‘s medical apartheid system.‖

The Cuban government offers a free medical training program that has drawn in thousands of students from around the world, including many from the United States. If the bill pushed by Diaz and Garcia passes, any American student who goes to Cuba for training will not be able to get a medical license to practice in Florida. The ban would not apply to those who trained in Cuba prior to coming to the U.S. According to Diaz‘s press release it would only apply to ―those who willingly go to Cuba to be used as propaganda tools by the Cuban government.‖

Last year, Garcia pushed a bill that would prevent local governments from contracting with firms that had Cuban branches. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, but also said it could not be enforced, sparking backlash in the Cuban exile community in Miami. The measure led to a federal lawsuit and is tied up in court.

Read more here:

There you have it. Cuba takes one (or more) steps forward and some in the US Congress put a vise-like grip on the White House and the people of the US. The irony in the statement by Rep. Manny Diaz and Sen. Rene Garcia is of course that if you are a Cuban, trained by the same exact medical system as the one being offered to the US students in Cuba,  and you decide to defect to the United States,  you are not only welcome, but life is made super simple for you.  Cubans who defect from say,  Venezuela, where they are working as doctors, if they decide to defect to the US,  get a year of subsidized housing and a stipend in order to study for their boards. They are also given a choice of places to practice in the U.S. and all of this on the US taxpayers dime! Who knows?! If you’re Cuban, you probably don’t even have to  take the boards in Florida! The “brain drain” out of Cuba is allowed; training  US citizens is not, how’s that for a humdinger!

Freedom of travel, private property, free enterprise, Alan Gross for the Cuban Five  aren’t really the problem. No matter what Cuba does, there will always be someone or someone’s out there across the Florida Straits, finding an excuse, albeit, a boomerang one, to make it impossible for some within the US government,  to ever have the chance to openly and honestly,  accept the hand being offered them. 

¿Es pragmática la política estadounidense en el caso Alan Gross?

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on January 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm
Por Arturo López- Levy 
El tema peor manejado en las relaciones Cuba-EE.UU durante los primeros periodos presidenciales de Barack Obama y Raúl Castro ha sido la detención del subcontratista de la Agencia estadounidense para el desarrollo internacional (USAID) Alan Gross. Este norteamericano cumple una sentencia de quince años a partir de su arresto en Cuba el 3 de Diciembre de 2009, y luego juzgado por actos contra la independencia o la integridad del estado cubano. Evadiendo el primer requerimiento de una postura pragmática, “reconocer los hechos”, la Administración Obama  ha creado su propia ficción en contradicción hasta con sus propios documentos[i] [1], ahora disponibles al público.
Gross no es un espía sino un experto en comunicación que fue a Cuba como un agente extranjero no registrado. Su misión era crear una red inalámbrica de acceso a internet por satélite, basado en centros comunitarios judíos, evadiendo la detección por parte del gobierno cubano. El programa de la USAID fue aprobado bajo la sección 109 de la ley Helms-Burton, que al decir de su autor, el senador Jesse Helms, fija el embargo contra Cuba (incluida la prohibición de vender equipos de computación) como la ley de EE.UU.
Las acciones de Gross fueron secretas. Su programa nunca obtuvo el consentimiento informado de la comunidad judía cubana, que siempre se ha opuesto a la politización de las congregaciones de fe como instrumentos de subversión. Alan Gross no es un experto en Cuba y ni siquiera habla español.  Le encanta la música cubana pero eso no califica a nadie para la misión encubierta que le asignó Development Alternatives Initiatives, a nombre de la USAID.
Todo eso es bien conocido pero la USAID insiste que Gross estaba en Cuba solo haciendo trabajo humanitario. El Departamento de Estado insiste que la comunidad internacional malinterpreta la ley Helms-Burton; que no viola la soberanía cubana. El problema de las relaciones con Cuba parece más de psiquiatría que de política. La sociedad civil cubana, los grupos religiosos y hasta los disidentes que critican el embargo no se percatan que la ley Helms-Burton existe para ayudarlos.
Un documento recientemente desclasificado del equipo de la USAID[ii] [2] asociado al trabajo de Gross revela un patrón consistente de desinformación. El programa recomienda a Babalu Blog, un sitio web irrelevante, manejado por defensores rabiosos del embargo, como la primera fuente de  información sobre Cuba. Babalu blog no se focaliza en estudiar Cuba sino en propagar insultos contra el presidente Obama y cualquiera que no concuerde con el macartismo de los escritores de Babalu Blog.  Según uno de sus artículos menos ofensivos,
Obama es un “tirano marxista”, en la tradición de Stalin, Mao y Fidel Castro[iii] [3]El mero recomendar a Babalu blog como fuente de estudio es razón suficiente para congelar el programa hasta tanto no se garantice un mínimo de supervisión adulta.
Hacia una política pragmática:
Solo en el planeta Babalu, la política de embargo no tiene responsabilidad moral por el encarcelamiento de Alan Gross.  Si alguien quiere saber por qué la Habana se opone a la creación por la USAID de redes fuera de su monitoreo debe leer el libro de David Sanger “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret War and Surprising Use of American Power”. “Olympic Games” fue el código para Stuxnet, un virus informático, que causó severos daños al programa nuclear secreto iraní. Según Sanger, fue el “ataque cibernético más complejo y sofisticado que Estados Unidos haya lanzado”.
¿Deben los participantes en los programas de la USAID en Cuba preocuparse por eso? Si los funcionarios cubanos no leyeran los periódicos capitalistas no sería necesario.  El problema es que los leen. Hay analistas del gobierno cubano que siguen la prensa estadounidense y alertan a sus superiores sobre potenciales amenazas a la seguridad nacional cubana. Aunque el libro de Sanger fue publicado después del arresto de Gross, en Cuba los análisis sobre el uso de las nuevas tecnologías como arma están en el orden del día.
Pero Cuba no es Irán. La Habana no tiene un programa nuclear y todo el que en Washington no se “informa” con Babalu Blog sabe que la designación de Cuba como país terrorista es una farsa. El uso del gusano cibernético Stuxnet contra Irán está justificado. La Republica Islámica ha mentido a la organización internacional de la energía atómica. Su programa nuclear es una amenaza existencial a Israel y desestabilizaría el balance de poder en el golfo afectando la relación estadounidense con sus aliados petroleros de la zona. ¿Por qué EE.UU usaría algo así contra Cuba?
Un enfoque pragmático requiere comprender las percepciones del gobierno cubano. Los Castro no han mantenido el poder sin estudiar el tratamiento estadounidense a Cuba por décadas. Sucede que los documentos desclasificados por EE.UU revelan que varias veces los esfuerzos para derrocar el gobierno de Cuba han sido más sofisticados que lo que la propia propaganda comunista denunció.  Todo ha estado sobre la mesa, incluido usar a la mafia para matar a Fidel Castro. El Departamento de Estado puede considerar pacifico el programa Cuba de la USAID, pero esperar que Cuba se acomode a sus designios de cambio de régimen no es realista.
La demanda de que Cuba libere a Alan Gross unilateralmente hace lucir amateur a la diplomacia estadounidense. Es cierto que el Grupo de Naciones Unidas sobre detenciones arbitrarias ha instado a liberar a Alan Gross argumentando que no recibió un juicio justo, pero eso mismo dijo sobre los cinco agentes cubanos arrestados en Florida y EE.UU no acató la decisión. Incluso si Washington considera irracional la negociación de la liberación de Gross a cambio de la de los cinco agentes cubanos, no tiene sentido paralizar el mejoramiento de relaciones en otras áreas.  Obama no debe desperdiciar  con expectativas irracionales la flexibilidad derivada de  su segundo mandato para mejorar las relaciones con Cuba y la región latinoamericana. Incidentalmente, una mejoría general de las relaciones mejorara también las probabilidades de que Gross sea liberado.
Una característica central del pragmatismo es el análisis de cada reto en sus meritos sin litigar de nuevo las batallas del pasado. La estrategia norteamericana de cambio de régimen hacia Cuba es una pérdida de tiempo y oportunidades. Ignora que al no estar Fidel Castro al timón, el régimen ya se está adaptando a nuevas condiciones y cambiará más cuando pronto pase la generación de los revolucionarios históricos. Transitar cuanto antes hacia una política integral de intercambio[iv] [4] sirve a los intereses de EE.UU, a los de Cuba y todo el hemisferio occidental, y seguro a los de Alan Gross.

[i] [5]

Is Obama Acting Pragmatically in the Alan Gross Case?

In Alan Gross, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Politics, US on January 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm


Professor López-Levy offers irrefutable proof that the situation in the case of Alan Gross has no other option than serious negotiation by the governments of Cuba and the United States. Prisoner exchange may be the only viable option, even when the two cases, that of Mr Gross working as a paid contractor violating Cuban law and that of the Cuban Five infiltrating paramilitary groups aiming to wrought violence against Cuba, are no  where close to being similar. -MAP


By Arturo López-Levy

This article was originally published at Sharnoffs Global Views 


The worst managed issue between Cuba and the United States during Obama and Raul Castro’s first terms has been the detention of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in a Cuban military hospital since December 3, 2009. Shirking the first requirement of pragmatism, namely “facing the facts,” the Obama Administration has created its own fictional narrative that contradict even its own documents now available to the public.

Gross is an American international development expert who entered Cuba as a non registered foreign agent. As a USAID subcontractor, his mission was to create a wireless Internet satellite network based on Jewish community centers that would circumvent Cuban government detection. The USAID program was approved under section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act, a law committed to regime change in Cuba.

Gross’s actions were covert. He never obtained the informed consent of the Cuban government or the Cuban Jewish community, which has always expressed opposition to the Helms-Burton law, particularly its attempt to politicize religious communities as tools to promote opposition groups. Mr. Gross did not know Cuba and did not speak Spanish. He loved Cuban music but that is hardly a qualifier for the type of covert mission he received from Development Alternatives Initiatives (DAI), a contractor for the US government.

All this is well-known, but Washington maintains that Gross did humanitarian work in Cuba. The US insists that the international community simply misunderstands the Helms-Burton law; it doesn’t violate Cuba’s sovereignty. USAID claims that Cuban civil society, religious groups and even dissidents who criticize the Helms-Burton approach are mistaken. The Helms-Burton law helps them; they just don’t realize it.

A new declassified document of a USAID task force associated with Gross indicates a pattern of consistent misinformation. At the head of a list of go-to-sources of information on Cuba, the program recommended Babalu blog, an irrelevant website managed by rabid pro-embargo elements.

Babalu blog does not focus on Cuba but on spreading baseless accusations and insults against Obama and his administration’s policy towards Cuba. According to one of the less insulting posts, Obama is a “Marxist tyrant” along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry and any Cuban-American or American who disagrees with Babalu Blog writers’ McCarthyism. The fact that USAID Cuba program recommends Babalu Blog as a reliable source of information is in itself a call for closing the program until some adult guidance is guaranteed.

A message from Planet Earth to the Obama Administration

Every day Gross spends behind bars is an embarrassment for the American government. If anybody wonders why Havana is opposed to USAID plans to create Internet connections that circumvent its capacity to monitor traffic should read David Sanger’s new book Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power. “Olympic Games” was the code name for Stuxnet, a cyber worm that caused major disruptions in Iran’s nuclear program. According to Sanger, it was “the most sophisticated, complex cyber-attack the United States ever launched.”

But should Americans participating in USAID programs in Cuba worry about this? Cuban government officials don’t read capitalist newspapers. Oh, wait, sure they do! A team in Havana analyzes US publications, alerting their superiors of potential threats to Cuba’s national security. Although Mr. Sanger’s book was published after Gross was arrested, Cuban officials have already read and analyzed it.

But, Cuba is not Iran. Havana is not a nuclear proliferator and everybody in Washington knows that Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is a sham. The use of the Stuxnet cyber worm against Iran was justified. The Iranian nuclear military program is an existential threat to Israel and a game changer of the balance of power in the Gulf against the United States and its Arab allies. Iran has lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency about its facilities and programs.

So why would Cuban leaders fear a US cyber attack? A pragmatic approach calls for looking at how Cuba’s government views the issue. The Castros didn’t get where they are without studying Washington’s treatment of Cuba over the years. It turns out that declassified US documents reveal that efforts to overthrow the Cuban government have at times been more sophisticated than what even communist propaganda denounced. Everything has been on the table, including using the mafia to kill Fidel Castro. Washington might consider the USAID Cuba project peaceful. But any hope of Cuban accommodation to its current regime change design is unrealistic.

Time for a pragmatic approach

The Obama Administration’s cordial attitude towards the Cuban-American old-guard is a bizarre ideological commitment to those who did everything possible to prevent his reelection. Hard-liners’ insistence on rejecting negotiations in the Gross case is a transparent attempt to torpedo Obama’s overall dialogue approach with our adversaries, even when it clearly serves American national interests.

Whether American diplomats realize it or not, the Obama Administration’s fixation on Cuba’s unilateral release of Gross is making US policy looks amateurish. Even if Washington considers it unreasonable for Cuba to link Gross to the five Cuban agents arrested in Florida, it makes no sense to put on hold constructive proposals for better relations in other areas. Obama’s legacy in the hemisphere will suffer if he wastes his second term flexibility to improve US-Cuba relations because of unrealistic expectations. Incidentally, the probability of releasing Gross will improve as general relations do.

A central characteristic of pragmatism is the analysis of every challenge on its own merits without attempting to litigate, once again, yesterday’s battles. Continuing to operate our Cuba policy under an old and failed “regime change” strategy ignores the fact that the regime will soon change organically. Moving toward a comprehensive policy of engagement now is in the national interest of the United States, and is certainly in the best interests of Alan and Judy Gross.