Cuban authorities sentenced American development worker Alan Gross to a 15-year sentence on March 11, triggering outrage in Washington. Philip J. Crowley, a spokesman for the State Department, said:
We deplore this ruling. Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries. He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of the world.
We call on the Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally release him. To allow him to return to his family, and bring to an end the long ordeal that began well over a year ago.
The People’s Provincial Court of Havana on March 11 said Gross committed “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” A Cuban government statement released March 12 said:
The Court, to make that decision, took into account the large amount of documentary evidence and those provided by witnesses and experts presented during the oral trial, particularly the ones by the prosecutor, which showed the direct participation of the US contractor in a subversive project of the US government to try to destroy the Revolution, by way of the use of info-communication systems out of the control of the authorities, in order to promote destabilizing plans against various social sectors.
During the hearing of the oral trial, the defendant admitted having been used and manipulated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), subordinate to the Department of State and that finances the DAI Contracting Company, on behalf which Gross came to Cuba.
Well, first, I think that the 15-year sentence is deplorable. Alan Gross was in Cuba to help people literally connect with the rest of the world, and as we’re seeing around the world, that’s a tide that is coming. You’re not going to be able to push it back out to sea, even in Cuba. He has served a very long time for doing what was not in any way criminal, in our view. And he should be released, and at the very least, on humanitarian terms. He should be sent home to his family, and I’m hoping that the Cuban Government will do that.
Others called on changes in U.S. democracy programs. Writing in the Havana Note, Cuba specialist Lilia Lopez said:
If this tragic episode does not fundamentally transform the nature of U.S. “democracy promotion” efforts in Cuba, I shudder to think what it may take.
The saga that Alan Gross and his family have been living for the past 15 months was an incredibly unfortunate accident waiting to happen. USAID knows its back door tactics place American and Cuban participants in direct violation of Cuban law. In dealing with Cuba, a country that views these programs as part of a larger strategy of regime change (with good reason), and operates one of the most formidable intelligence services in the world, it is no wonder, however regrettable, that Havana decided to make an example out of Alan Gross.
Former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba, met with both Fidel and Raul Castro and asked Cuban authorities to release Gross. Cuban authorities declined.
See Carter’s report from his March 28-30 trip.
Source of cover photo of Jimmy Carter: Islamia