Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Cuba pushes swap: its spies jailed in US for American contractor held in Havana

In Alan Gross, Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, Blockade, CAFE, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Israel, Politics, US on December 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm
/Photo Credit: Roberto León, NBC News

A billboard in Cuba shows the Cuban Five — Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González.

By Michael Isikoff
NBC News

From NBC News.com

HAVANA, Cuba — It seems straight out of a Cold War spy movie. A group of Cuban undercover agents sneak into the U.S. and set up a secret pro-Castro network in south Florida — receiving instructions in code through late night radio transmissions from handlers in Havana. But the FBI gets wind, tails the agents, intercepts their messages and busts them, sending the agents off to federal prison, their ringleader for life.

Today, the story of those spies — called La Red Avispa, or the Wasp Network — rolled up by the feds 14 years ago is barely known in the United States. But its members, now  known as the Cuban Five, are national heroes in Cuba — the subjects of mass demonstrations, their pictures on billboards and  posters – and their petitions for freedom are championed around the world by Nobel Prize winners, celebrities like Danny Glover, even former President Jimmy Carter.

And they may now prove key to the tense impasse between Havana and Washington over the fate of jailed American contractor Alan Gross, arrested three years ago Monday for distributing sophisticated satellite equipment to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community and later sentenced to 15 years in prison for “acts against the independence and/or territorial integrity of the state.” (Gross says he was only bringing Internet access to Cuba.)

While the U.S. is demanding that Cuba release Gross, who visitors say is angry and frail, having lost 110 pounds in prison, Cuban officials say they are willing to do so only if President Barack Obama will  release the Cuban agents.

“I understand what Mr. Gross is going through,” Gerardo Hernandez, 47, the Cuban Five ringleader, said in an exclusive interview with NBC News in October at his current home –a federal prison outside Victorville, Calif. “I understand his sufferings and that of his family. … If an agreement can be reached, to stop the sufferings of six families, then I welcome it.”

The idea of a swap — the release of Gross for Hernandez and his confederates among the Cuban Five — faces legal and political hurdles.

An Obama administration official told NBC News that the “imprisonment of Alan Gross, an international development worker, is not comparable in any way to that of the five Cuban agents,” noting that the Cubans were afforded their “due process rights” and convicted of serious crimes.

Cuban Five ringleader Gerardo Hernandez

Members of Congress have denounced Cuba for holding Gross “hostage” to the release of the Cuban Five. “The Castro regime has no regard for human rights or international law,” said Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and frequent critic of the Castro regime. “The Cuba Five should serve their sentences for spying.”

And Hernandez, who sports a trim goatee and displays a hearty laugh despite 14 years in prison,  might not make the ideal candidate for a pardon or commutation from Obama — a precondition for a swap to take place. Asked if he regretted any of his actions, he smiled and said,  “I regret that I got caught.” In a follow up phone interview, Hernandez readily acknowledged that “we violated some U.S. laws” — mainly failing to register as foreign agents with the U.S. Justice Department. “We came here with fake passports. Fake identities.”  But, he added, “We act out of necessity.”

As Hernandez and Cuban officials tell it, the Cuban Five was not sent to spy on the U.S. government. In fact, the members weren’t accused of stealing any U.S. secrets (although they were convicted of conducting surveillance of U.S. military bases.) Instead, the mission of the Wasp Network, they say, was to infiltrate  anti-Castro exile groups in South Florida who Havana suspected of plotting terrorist attacks inside Cuba. Among those attacks: the notorious bombing of Cubana Flight 455 over the Caribbean in 1976, killing 73 passengers (including teenage members of a Cuban  national fencing team)  as  well as a string of hotel bombings in Havana in  1997 that killed an Italian businessman and were believed to have been aimed at disrupting Cuba’s nascent tourist industry.

“Cuba doesn’t have drones to neutralize the terrorists abroad,” said Hernandez. “They need to send people to gather information and protect the Cuban people from these terrorist actions. … I think it’s the same feeling that Americans have that defend their country and love their country when they go to infiltrate al-Qaida and send information here to avoid the terrorist acts. And the U.S. has to understand that Cuba has been involved in the war against terrorism for 50 years.”

Alan Gross in an undated family photo, left, and in 2012, after losing 110 pounds while imprisoned in Cuba.

While admitting his role in spying on anti-Castro exiles — “I would do it again,” he said — Hernandez adamantly denies the most serious charge against him: conspiracy to commit murder. His conviction on that count, which has earned him a life sentence, was based on his alleged complicity in the February 1996 shoot-down by a Cuban fighter jet of two Cessna planes flown by members of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue, killing four men.

The anti-Castro group had provoked Cuba by dropping anti-government leaflets over Havana. At the trial of the Cuban Five, prosecutors introduced messages between Hernandez and his controllers in Havana suggesting he had prior knowledge of the shoot-down. But Hernandez insists that prosecutors misinterpreted the messages and he knew nothing that wasn’t already public.

“No, sir, absolutely not,” Hernandez replied when asked if he knew in advance about the incident. “All I knew was what everybody knew: that Brothers to the Rescue through the years has violated many times Cuban air space, that there have been 16 diplomatic notes from Cuba complaining over that situation.”

 

/Photo Credit: Roberto León, NBC News

Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly

Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba’s National Assembly (the Parliament) and a longtime Castro confidante, said this week in Havana that “the Cuban government publicly, front page in our papers, months before that incident had warned that we are not going to allow any more intrusions into our air space. … The order, the decision (to shoot down the planes) came from the highest level. Fidel Castro himself had said that publicly, that he was responsible for that decision.”

U.S. Appeals Court Judge Phyllis Kravitch of Atlanta concluded in 2008 that prosecutors never proved their case tying Hernandez to a plot to shoot down the planes, but she was outvoted two to one and his conviction on the murder conspiracy charge was upheld. Now Hernandez and his lawyers are appealing on another ground: that hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret  U.S. government payments to anti-Castro journalists in Miami — newly discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests — inflamed the Miami community against the Cuban Five and made it impossible for them for them to get a fair trial. The payments were mostly made for appearances on Radio Marti, a TV and radio operation funded by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent agency that oversees international broadcasting sponsored by the U.S. government.

In court papers, lawyers for the Cuban Five have cited articles by some of the journalists, including one that denounced the “genocidal character” of Castro’s regime and another that speculated that the real purpose of the Wasp Network was to introduce “chemical or bacteriological weapons” into south Florida. “”his information was spread throughout the Miami area and helped inflame the community against these guys,” said Martin Garbus, Hernandez’ lawyer. “It was total madness. … When the case was brought, the anti-Castro feeling in the Miami area was at a fevered pitch.”

Keystone / Getty Images

Ever since U.S.-backed Cuban President Fulgencio Batista was forced from power by rebels led by Fidel Castro in 1958, the relationship between the two nations has been fraught with difficulties.

U.S. prosecutors dismiss as “implausible” and “unfounded” the idea that the Radio Marti payments were part of a U.S. government effort to influence the jury in the Cuban Five case.

“The jury (in the case) was carefully selected, following a searching voir dire (jury selection process) that the appellate court deemed a high model for a high-profile case, and that the trial comported with the highest standards for fairness and professionalism,” wrote Caroline Heck Miller, an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami, in a court filing in July asking a judge to reject Hernandez’ motion for a hearing into the payments to the journalists. She also noted, as federal prosecutors have repeatedly done when the issue has come up, that “no Cuban-Americans – the audience (Hernandez) hypothesizes as the target of the government campaign he imagines — served on the jury.”

Unless Hernandez can somehow persuade a court to reopen his case  – or barring a prisoner swap with Gross — he would seem to have few options.

Rene Gonzalez, another member of the Cuban Five who was not convicted of the conspiracy-to-commit-murder charge, was released from federal prison on probation late last year, but has not yet been allowed to return home to Cuba to live.

 

/Photo Credit: Roberto León,  NBC News

Adriana Perez, wife of imprisoned Cuban agent, Gerardo Hernandez

The Cubans are doing their best to ratchet up the pressure. Just as Judy Gross has launched a public relations campaign in the United States to free her husband, appearing at a National Press Club press conference on Friday, this week the Cubans made Hernandez wife, Adriana, available for an interview with NBC News. A chemist in the food industry in Havana, she wept as she described the pain of separation from her husband — and how it has left her unable to bear children. “Every detail, every single moment reminds me of him,” she said. “I believe there are many people in the U.S. and the American people as a whole, who could convey to President Obama that there is a woman here suffering.”

Hernandez, too, says missing his wife is the hardest part of his life in prison. And he has few illusions about his prospects of being freed. “The only thing I know for sure with me is that I have two life sentences and live with that every day,” he said. “And to keep your sanity and your mind, you have to be realistic. But I would be dishonest to say that I don’t have hope.”

Michael Isikoff is NBC News’ national investigative correspondent; NBC News Producer Mary Murray also contributed to this report.

Alan Gross vs. the Cuban Five?

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, Israel, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on May 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm

May 23, 2012 – Ron  Kampeas,  Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Washington

From The Jewish Exponent

Advocates for Alan Gross, who is serving prison time in Cuba, say that talk of a trade for five Cuban spies is a non-starter. But they acknowledge hopes that the Obama administration will consider lower-level concessions in exchange for Cuban considerations for the jailed American.

Insiders say that Gross’ advocates want the U.S. government to consider, among other things, more family visits for the “Cuban Five,” agents who were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 on espionage-related charges, and the permanent return home for the one among them who is now out of jail and serving probation.

The Cuban government recently came closer than ever to making explicit that the fate of the Cuban Five factors into its considerations of whether to release Gross, the State Department contractor who was convicted on charges stemming from his efforts to connect Cuba’s small Jewish community to the Internet.

Gross, who is Jewish and from Potomoc, Md., was arrested in 2009 and sentenced last year to 15 years.

“We have made clear to the U.S. government that we are ready to have a negotiation in order to try and find a solution, a humanitarian solution to Mr. Gross’ case on a reciprocal basis,” Josefina Vidal, the top official in the Cuban Foreign Ministry handling North America, said in a May 10 interview on CNN.

Vidal would not offer specifics, but prompted by interviewer Wolf Blitzer, she said the Cuban Five were a concern. “Cuba has legitimate concerns, humanitarian concerns related to the situation of the Cuban Five,” she said.

The State Department immediately rejected such reciprocity. “There is no equivalence between these situations,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said in remarks to the media the day after the interview. “On the one hand, you have convicted spies in the United States, and on the other hand, you have an assistance worker who should never have been locked up in the first place. So we are not contemplating any release of the Cuban Five, and we are not contemplating any trade.

“The continuing imprisonment of Alan Gross is deplorable, it is wrong, and it’s an affront to human decency. And the Cuban government needs to do the right thing,” she said.

On background, a source apprised of the dealings among Gross’ advocates, the U.S. government and the Cubans says that Gross’ advocates are willing to press for visits by the wives of two of the Cuban Five, Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez. The United States has refused visas multiple times for the women, and Amnesty International has taken up their cause.

Another possible “give,” according to the source: a permanent return to Cuba for Gonzalez, who is out of jail and serving probation in the Miami area. It’s not clear what the Cubans would offer in return for such concessions, but it is likely they would draw protests from the Cuban-American community, including among stalwart pro-Israel lawmakers, such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the powerful chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, who has rejected any leniency for the Cuban Five.

Ronald Halber, who heads the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and has directed much of the national activism on Gross’ behalf, said he understands the “intensity” of the Cuban-American community’s response, but said that Obama also should take into account the national interest.

“I do not believe that U.S. policy to Cuba can be held hostage by the Cuban community in Miami,” he said. “It’s American national interests that are at stake. They should be part of the conversation, I understand the intensity, although this intensity is more among the older generation, not the younger generation. Our government has to do what is in our interests.”

Gross’ family and his advocates in the organized Jewish community emphasize their agreement with Nuland’s premise: There is no equivalency between a contractor installing and training others in the use of communications equipment and five spies believed to be instrumental in the 1996 shooting of two small aircraft leafleting Cuba with pro-democracy messages, resulting in the deaths of four Cuban-American activists.

Three of the five were sentenced to life and one to 19 years. Gonzalez, sentenced to 15 years, was released last year on a three-year probation.

“We’re not in a position to negotiate that and I don’t think the U.S. government is inclined to do so,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the community’s foreign policy umbrella.

Instead, he said, “we are continuing to press the case in various fora directly and indirectly.”

That included the Presidents Conference’s recent requests that Pope Benedict XVI raise Gross’ plight during his March trip to Cuba.

Gross, who is held in a medical facility, has been visited by family, friends and Jewish leaders. He is allowed weekly calls to the United States.

Most recently he spoke with leaders of the JCRC of Greater Washington to thank them for leading U.S. advocacy on his behalf.

Gross, his family and his advocates want him to make a two-week visit to his 90-year-old mother, who is dying of cancer in Texas, after which he has pledged he will return to Cuba.

His family had voiced support for allowing Gonzalez to return home for two weeks to visit his brother. Gonzalez made the visit in March and has since returned.

Vidal said the two concessions were not equivalent.

“The cases of Mr. Gross and Mr. Rene Gonzalez, I have to tell you, are different,” she told CNN. “First, Mr. Rene Gonzalez, who is one of the Cuban Five, he served completely his term until the last day. Rene Gonzalez was not detained and was not imprisoned for attempting against U.S. national security.”

Those are the charges against Gross; Cuba says the Cuban Five were guilty only of spying on groups it considers as extremist and not on the U.S. government.

Cuba maintains that Gross’ activity on behalf of the Jewish community was a cover for installing sophisticated communications equipment. Gross has said the equipment is freely available in U.S. electronic goods outlets and online.

Halber of the Washington JCRC noted a new openness to Cuba under the Obama administration, which has facilitated travel between the two countries. President Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, is attending a conference this week in San Francisco.

Halber said the primary fault lies with the Cuban government for attempting to leverage Gross’ freedom to secure concessions for the Cuban Five.

“He is a man who is being used as a hostage, who is being used as a pawn,” Halber said. “The Cubans are using a man as a bargaining chip to get back five correctly convicted folks who committed crimes on U.S. soil.”

How a Nuclear War Would Start in the Middle East

In History, Israel, Politics, US on January 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

 

 

By Jeffrey Goldberg

from The Atlantic

How would a nuclear exchange in the Middle East come to pass?

There is always a chance, of course, that the mullahs in Tehran would decide, while sitting around one day cursing the Jews, that since they now have a nuclear weapon, why not just drop it on Israel and be done with it? I’ve always believed that, all things being equal, it would be better to see atheists in charge of nuclear weapons, rather than religious fundamentalists. Men who profess belief in the glories of the afterlife might not mind their own nuclear obliteration quite as much as I would like. And it is also true that the Iranian regime is rhetorically genocidal, describing Israel, and Jews, in Hitlerian terms: as cancer and tumors in need of eradication.

But the mullahs are also men interested in keeping hold of temporal power, and it seems unlikely that they would immediately deploy their weapons against the Jewish state. But, as I point out in my Bloomberg View column this week, it might not matter. Put aside all the other good reasons the current Iranian leadership shouldn’t be considered appropriate stewards of nuclear weapons. The main threat posed by a nuclear Iran is that, based on its past behavior — and assuming it will be even more adventurous and provocative once it has gone nuclear — it will almost inevitably trigger a crisis that will escalate into a nuclear confrontation with Israel:

The experts who study this depressing issue seem to agree that a Middle East in which Iran has four or five nuclear weapons would be dangerously unstable and prone to warp-speed escalation.

Here’s one possible scenario for the not-so-distant future: Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, launches a cross-border attack into Israel, or kills a sizable number of Israeli civilians with conventional rockets. Israel responds by invading southern Lebanon, and promises, as it has in the past, to destroy Hezbollah. Iran, coming to the defense of its proxy, warns Israel to cease hostilities, and leaves open the question of what it will do if Israel refuses to heed its demand.

Dennis Ross, who until recently served as President Barack Obama’s Iran point man on the National Security Council, notes Hezbollah’s political importance to Tehran. “The only place to which the Iranian government successfully exported the revolution is to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Ross told me. “If it looks as if the Israelis are going to destroy Hezbollah, you can see Iran threatening Israel, and they begin to change the readiness of their forces. This could set in motion a chain of events that would be like ‘Guns of August’ on steroids.”
Imagine that Israel detects a mobilization of Iran’s rocket force or the sudden movement of mobile missile launchers. Does Israel assume the Iranians are bluffing, or that they are not? And would Israel have time to figure this out? Or imagine the opposite: Might Iran, which will have no second-strike capability for many years — that is, no reserve of nuclear weapons to respond with in an exchange — feel compelled to attack Israel first, knowing that it has no second chance?

 The nuclear experts I respect most, including Bruce Blair, of Global Zero, and David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, both call a Middle East in which Iran possesses a small number of nuclear weapons a dangerously unstable place. Here is what Albright told me Monday about Iran’s particular challenges in an escalating confrontation — the no second-strike conundrum: “In a crisis, you don’t want to go first, but you don’t want to go second, either. It ends up in an unstable situation. Miscalculations can result in nuclear weapons being used. Iran may feel it doesn’t have second-strike capability and so would, in an escalating crisis, feel it has to use what it has first.” Iran, he explained, will be hampered, for many years after it crosses the nuclear threshold (assuming it is allowed to cross), by a small arsenal of comparatively modest bombs.

“Our estimate of their warhead design, based on internal documentation from  the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is that they would be building low-yield fission weapons of a few kilotons each” — “Fat Man,” dropped on Nagasaki, was roughly a 20-kiloton bomb — “because they’re forced to miniaturize to make it smaller for delivery,” Albright said.

The Israelis, on the other hand, have a much larger arsenal than the Iranians could hope for for many years, and much more varied and sophisticated delivery systems. It is, from any angle, a hellish problem. Albright believes that the Middle East with a nuclearized Iran (and a nuclearized Israel, and, presumably, Iran’s regional adversaries, including Saudi Arabia, seeking their own nuclear weapons) would be much more unstable than South Asia. “The governments of Pakistan and India don’t necessarily see each other as mortal enemies. The relationship between Israel and Iran would be worse.”

 

"Silly game, the best move is NOT to play..."

 
So, what to do? Not attack. There’s plenty of time for war. Right now, the focus should be on convincing Iran, through sanctions, and a     promise, if it gives up its nuclear ambitions, to rejoin the international community. Will this work? Probably not, but it has to be pursued. Here’s Bruce Blair on the efficacy of a preemptive attack: “The liabilities of preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program vastly outweigh the benefits. But certainly Iran’s program must be stopped before it reaches fruition with a nuclear weapons delivery capability.” I would argue that it needs to be stopped before delivery systems are in place. The chance is small, but not vanishingly so, that an Iranian nuclear weapon could be delivered by sea or land, not by air.

 

Un villancico por la sensatez

In Alan Gross, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Israel, Politics, US on December 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Hace unas semanas me quedé atónita cuando supe la noticia. Un rabino había venido a Cuba, se había entrevistado con Alan Gross y había publicado un escrito sobre el encuentro en su sitio en internet.

El Rabino David Shneyer visitó Cuba hace unas semanas y se entrevistó con el contratista norteamericano Alan Gross. Describe su encuentro en gran detalle y deja al lector con una sensación de solidaridad hacia el reo, después de todo en sus propias palabras, el rabino David nos dice: ¨Soy un rabino por los derechos humanos,¨, y los derechos humanos de Alan Gross han sido violados. No por el gobierno cubano como muchos podrán pensar, sino por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos. El Sr. Gross había sido engaño por USAID al pensar que venía en una misión humanitaria para proporcionarle a la comunidad hebrea en Cuba nuevos equipos de tecnología moderna.

Esto no fue así.

Si bien es cierto que vino con equipamiento técnico, no era para la comunidad hebrea que por demás no necesita de esas cosas y tiene de sobra por medio de las decenas de donaciones que le llegan a diario transportadas por hebreos que visitan la isla. Lo que traía Alan y las personas para las cuales los transportaba no son parte de un esfuerzo humanitario, el acto del cual se le acusa es uno que va directamente en contra del gobierno de Cuba. Alan fue víctima de una mentira y del abuso de USAID, es una víctima y ahora paga el precio.

Pero no me lo crean a mí, léanlo en sus propias palabras en el blog del Rabino David: ” … trabajaba para una compañía bajo contrato de la USAID, para un programa diseñado para socavar al gobierno cubano.” La clave aquí siendo la palabra “socavar”. Alan Gross paga por la insistencia que tiene el gobierno de los EEUU en usar operaciones encubiertas para derrocar, desestabilizar, destruir, en fin, lo que sea, al gobierno cubano y esto ha sido así desde poco después de comienzos del año 1959.

Unas semanas después otro líder religioso vino a Cuba. El Reverendo Michael Kinnamon, secretario general del Consejo Nacional de Iglesias de los EEUU vino al frente de una delegación de 15 personas de visita a la isla y también visitaron con Alan Gross. El Rev Kinnamon mostró preocupación por el estado de salud de Gross pero lo hallo con buen estado de ánimo. También sostuvo un encuentro con las esposas y madres de los Cinco cubanos encarcelados injustamente en los EEUU. Estos hombres no cumplen condena por intentar socavar al gobierno de los EEUU. Fueron acusados y los cargos nunca se pudieron demostrar, de estar espiando dentro de los EEUU, pero no contra el gobierno, ellos espiaban a los mismos grupos que llevan haciendo carrera e historia intentando socavar al gobierno de Cuba desde 1959. Actos que han incluido pero no se limitan a as altos, bombas, muertes, torturas, y mucho más a lo largo de más de 50 años. Al final de la historia, Alan Gross y los Cinco tienen una cosa muy importante en común: todos son víctimas de la insistencia del gobierno de los EEUU y de sus cómplices de intentar derrocar a la Revolución Cubana

Caramba! en aras de seguir con la tradición navideña y con las luces y velas que iluminan los festejos deberíamos todos rezar una oración y cantar un villancico para que liberen a estos SEIS prisioneros victimas de 50 años de insensatez.

Letter to the Editor, JTA, re: Alan Gross

In Blockade, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, History, Israel, Politics, US on November 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Israelis holding up signs in support of the prisoner exchange.

jta.org Nov 09 2011

To the Editor:

My father and his parents lived in Cuba during World War II. They couldn’t come directly to the United States, and were compelled to wait in Cuba for years before finally receiving permission to enter the US in 1942. This was because of the restrictive quota on Jewish immigration which was strictly enforced by the Roosevelt administration. My life-long interest in Cuba is rooted in that family history. My father is referenced in Robert Levine’s TROPICAL DIASPORA.

Thanks for sharing Judy Gross’s appeal for support. Mr. Gross’s arrest and imprisonment in Cuba had nothing to do with his being Jewish. It was all about the political work Mr. Gross was doing while on the island of Cuba. In the time he’s been in custody, his wife has visited him, as have US diplomatic representatives, who were also able to attend his trial.

Mr. Gross has had plenty of time to reflect on the circumstances which got him where he is today, and he recently shared some of his conclusions with his Rabbi, David Shneyer. Here are excerpts from Rabbi Shneyer’s report to his congregation on what Alan Gross told him:

“Having learned about the recent swap of Gilad Shalit for more than 1000 imprisoned Palestinians, he felt that the US and Cuba could do the same for him and the Cuban Five, five Cubans convicted of spying and serving sentences in the US from 15 years to life. Alan saw a photo of the September vigil coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington in a Mexican newspaper. He hoped that future vigils would focus on the humanitarian aspects of his release.

“Alan was convicted and sentenced to a fifteen year term not so much for giving electronic equipment to some Jewish Cubans but because he was working for a company under a USAID contract, under a program designed to help undermine the Cuban government.”

The Palestinians included armed combatants who’d launched rockets and bombs at the state of Israel while the Cuban Five were completely non-violent intelligence gatherers. They probably never got a traffic citation while in the United States. In their thirteen years of incarceration, they’ve been model prisoners who’ve never had a disciplinary infraction.

Israel subsequently traded 25 Egyptians for one Israeli-American. And let’s not forgot those ten Russian agents caught last year. Within ONE WEEK they were traded with Russia for four Russians being held by the Russian government having been charged with being US agents.

Why can’t Washington trade five Cubans for Alan Gross?

Thank you,

Walter Lippmann

Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews

Los Angeles, California