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.)

How will the White House respond? It is harder to sustain a self-righteous stance of injured innocence about Alan given what he has put on the record and could expand in a public trial. But an out of court settlement for a more reasonable amount of damages can only be achieved if coupled with Alan's release. And that can't happen until Washington accepts Havana's offer of serious bilateral negotiations.

 

The primary goal of USAID and the State Department from the first moment has been to preserve its self-proclaimed right to intervene for pro-democracy reasons in Cuba's domestic politics. At first it sought to minimize and distance itself from Alan's activities. Later, as evidence came out in the trial and from the still secret AP source of what Alan had done and how he had done it, the US stance became none of that mattered because he hadn't done anything wrong in terms of our law and values. By implication, Cuban law and values meant nothing.

 

The suit recapitulates that theme, undermining its own case for US knowing culpability.

 

“Notwithstanding the verdict by the Cuban court, Mr. Gross’ activities were entirely lawful under the laws of the United States...Mr. and Mrs. Gross likewise have suffered significant economic losses due to Mr. Gross’s wrongful arrest and continuing wrongful detention.” 

 

However, the suit disputes the longstanding insistence that the State Department and USINT were unaware of Alan's activities:

 

 “Upon information and belief, USAID, and the United States’ diplomatic mission in Cuba, were required to communicate with each other regularly regarding Mr. Gross’ trips to Cuba.”
 

I have no expectation that this or any Administration will publicly trash an oft-repeated cover story, but perhaps a desire to avoid further unraveling contradictions will motivate dealing honestly with Cuba and addressing what is necessary to achieve Alan's release.

 

John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

 

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Links and Resources

 

A people to people trip focused on economic and social changes under actualizacion reforms January 6 -13

 

Presidential authority to suspend virtually all of the embargo