Alan Gross: Castro’s Pawn, Obama’s Dilemma

Ray Walser /

Cuban President Fidel Castro (L) and his brother Raul, chat on December 23, 2003 in Havana, during a meeting of the Cuban Parliament. Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel Castro as the president of Cuba on February 24, 2008, in a historic power shift expected to keep Havana firmly on its communist path, officials said.

The conviction and sentencing of American contractor Alan Gross surely leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the Obama Administration days before it embarks on a Latin American trip. Opting to “play it careful and safe” and “hope the Cuban dictatorship does the right thing” did not spare the Maryland man from receiving a 15-year prison sentence.

Gross, 61, was detained by Cuban officials in December 2009 for delivering communications equipment to a small Cuban Jewish community. He was part of a USAID fund to expand communication access on the island. Former State Department spokesperson P. J. Crowley defended the program and Gross, saying he is a “dedicated international development worker” who visited Cuba to donate satellite equipment to “help the Cuban people connect with the rest of the world.” (more…)