November 2012

Through Shift of Blame Alan Gross Case Moves Closer to Resolution


MIAMI (Reuters) - The wife of Alan Gross, the U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba for crimes against the state, said she hopes President Barack Obama's re-election will soon help lead to her ailing husband's release from the communist-ruled country....


"The U.S. government sent him there, they sent him on a project, and they need to take responsibility for getting this man home," Judy Gross told Reuters in an interview late on Friday.


Calling her husband a "pawn" in an unfortunate game between two countries just 90 miles apart, she said she believed Obama's re-election could now help his administration push harder for Gross's freedom, even if it means making possible concessions to Cuba that are opposed by conservative Cuban-American lawmakers....


The United States needs to sit down with Cuba, even if they're saying 'we only want the Cuban Five,'" Gross said.


"They can't leave him there. They have to keep trying, and we'll keep pushing them," she said.


Push indeed. A week later, Alan and Judy filed suit against the US government and Development Alternatives Incorporated for $60 million, as reported by Reuters, “blaming them for his imprisonment and not warning him about the risks he faced”.


I have been fairly harsh here and elsewhere about the irresponsible attitude of the State Department and DAI regarding the fate of their contract agent Alan Gross. However my language was mild compared to charges by Alan and Judy:


since December 3, 2009. Mr. Gross is imprisoned in Cuba due to his work on a project that Defendant United States negligently directed, organized, and oversaw”


Defendant DAI engaged in this behavior – putting profits before safety”


One of its objectives is to '[d]evelop and . . . activate plans for launching a rapid-response programmatic platform that will meet USAID’s interest for having and coordinating an on-island presence.'”


Defendants also ignored Mr. Gross’ own expressions of concern about the Project, opting instead to continue an operation from which Defendant DAI stood to benefit financially and that Defendant United States was committed to ideologically.


using Mr. Gross as a pawn in its overall Cuban policy efforts”


Defendant United States’ breaches of its duties were a direct and proximate cause of Mr. Gross’ detention and imprisonment in Cuba”


Defendant DAI’s breaches of its duties were a direct and proximate cause of Mr. Gross’ detention and imprisonment in Cuba”


 (More extended excerpts with citations are here, as well as links to the full complaint.)

Obama Won Record Cuban American Vote

Last night's election results made pretty clear that President Obama's re-election had much to do with his campaign's vaunted ground game, and likely also with Governor Romney's inability to provide a compelling enough alternative to a president who was vulnerable on several fronts. The pundits largely agree: the American people didn't exactly give Obama a mandate. Even as the Republican party asks itself, "Where to, now?" - President Obama must do some soul searching of his own if he is to govern successfully in his second term.

With all the talk of changing demographics, one key demographic made an important and historic shift. The Cuban American community may well have given President Obama a mandate on Cuba policy. According to exit polling (as reported by Fox News), President Obama won a record number of Cuban American votes in this election, 47% to Romney's 50%. This is a full ten points above the previous high water mark (reached by Obama in 2008) by a Democratic politician. No longer can Cuban Americans be characterized a "reliable Republican" constituency.

Watch the Cuban Vote in Florida


A factor in President Obama's potential victory in Florida are Cuban Americans who wish to preserve their normal liberty to travel and send remittances/investments. More than 25% of the Cuban community returned last year and an even larger percentage presumably contribute to the estimated $2 billion in annual assistance to their families, and their own future stake in Cuba.


Although not all have become citizens and vote, enough more have since 2008 that Obama can expect to increase his percentage above the 5% gain over Kerry. In addition Cuba's migratory reforms have significantly broadened the population who benefit from freedom of travel. In particular, the second phase announcement allowing return of previously excluded categories of illegal emigres affects 70,000 to 300,000  people who have lived in the US for a longer time. With little hope of visiting Cuba,  they were probably more inclined to citizenship. Will they want to give up the opportunity suddenly afforded them to return?


All these folks know that a Romney/Rubio/Diaz-Balart/Ros-Lehtinen victory will slam the door shut, returning to at least the Bush era level of restriction of travel (once every three years) and very stingy remittances.


Romney's campaign has run a scurrilous Spanish language ad in south Florida linking Obama to Presidents Chavez and Castro. Havana's denunciation of the semi-embassy US Interests Section for meddling in domestic politics is a way to say publicly that it does not have a dog in the US race.