A campaign of lies and distortions has accompanied Washington’s arrogant demands that the Cuban government release Alan Gross, a U.S. government agent. Recent articles and opinions in the U.S. capitalist press have brought more attention to the case and the imperialists’ demands, prompting the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to issue a statement Dec. 2 answering the false propaganda and stating the Cuban government’s position. (See box on page 7.)
A day before the Cuban statement, Sen. Benjamin Cardin and Rep. Christopher Van Hollen sent letters signed by more than 70 members of Congress to the Interests Section demanding Gross’s unconditional release.
Cuban authorities must “immediately release Mr. Gross,” demanded White House spokesman Jay Carney, the same day. The Barack Obama administration’s position has been that there can be no discussion on improving relations between Washington and Havana until Gross is released.
Gross, a so-called contractor, was sentenced in March to 15 years in prison in Cuba for distributing sophisticated satellite communications equipment to select individuals and groups on the island as part of a State Department program to undermine the Cuban Revolution and its government.
Gross worked for Development Alternatives Inc. under the State Department USAID program, whose stated purpose is “furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets.”
DAI was USAID’s main contractor, having received more than $2.7 billion between 2000 and December 2009, just before Gross’s arrest. It paid Gross more than $500,000 for his work over five short trips to Cuba in 2009.
A key aspect of Washington’s propaganda is that Gross was in Cuba simply to help the Jewish community there connect to the Internet.
According to the Associated Press, “The leaders of Cuba’s two main Jewish groups both denied having worked with” Gross. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that “the main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied having any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.”
In March former President James Carter went to Cuba where he visited Gross in prison. Upon meeting with leaders of the Jewish community, Carter said, “They say they have complete freedom to worship and adequate Internet communication with the outside world, and that they had no substantive contact with Alan Gross.”
The growing discussion on the case and the Cuban government’s statement take place in the context of speculation and opinions on the idea of Washington and Havana swapping Gross for the Cuban Five held in U.S. prisons.
The Cuban Five—René González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and Ramón Labañino—were arrested in 1998 by the FBI, then framed up and jailed by the U.S. government on various trumped-up “conspiracy” charges.
The five had been living and working in Florida, gathering information for the Cuban government on the activities of Cuban counterrevolutionary groups with a long history of violent attacks and acts of sabotage against the Cuban people.
On Sept. 7, USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham wrote a prominent opinion piece titled “Swap ‘Cuban five’ for U.S. contractor.”
The Los Angeles Times published a similar op-ed column Dec. 6 by William LeoGrande, head of the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, and Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
Following a November visit to Gross, Rabbi David Shneyer from Maryland reported that Gross “felt that the U.S. and Cuba could [swap] him and the Cuban Five.”
On the same day as the letter from Congress and the White House demanded Gross’s unconditional release, Judy Gross, Alan Gross’s wife, denied her husband supported any idea of a swap. “Alan has made clear to me and others . . . that he never has been compared with the five, and is in no way advocating such an exchange.” Around the same time, Judy Gross began organizing vigils every Monday in front of the Cuban Interests Section.
One of the Cuban Five, René González, was released from jail Oct. 7, after serving more than 13 years of a 15-year sentence. He was ordered to remain in the U.S. for three years of supervised release, an unusual punishment for citizens of another country, who are generally deported to their country upon release. The four other revolutionaries are serving prison sentences ranging from 17 years and nine months to double life plus 15 years.
Unlike Gross, the Cuban Five have been subjected to false charges, extraordinarily long sentences and the barbarity of U.S. prison conditions, including long stints in solitary confinement. While Gross has been able to see his family and receive visitors, René González and Gerardo Hernández have been denied the elementary right to see their wives.