A former political prisoner who went on a hunger strike and sewed his lips partially shut to demand that Cuban authorities release American Alan Gross began eating again after his family expressed concerns about his health, Reuters reported on May 18.
Vladimir Alejo Miranda, 48, launched the hunger strike in April. A second man, Angel Enrique Fernandez Rivero, 45, joined the protest and also sewed his lips partially shut. He still was not eating as of the Reuters dispatch.
On May 1, Penultimos Dias reported that Gross had been setting up a satellite Internet connection for ORT, an international Jewish organization that had a branch in Havana. The blog said:
A key point to an understanding of the Gross case is ORT… It was for ORT that the contractor Alan Gross prepared the network connection that was part of his project for Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI), funded by USAID. Shortly after the investigation that led to the arrest of Gross, ORT closed its Cuban subsidiary and one of his employees, William Miller, resigned as vice president of the Cuban Jewish Community.
The new vice president, David Prinstein, “was closely connected with Alan Gross during all of the trips Gross made to the island,” wrote Ernesto Hernández Busto, creator of the Penultimos Dias blog. He wrote:
Part of the contractor’s program funded by USAID included the distribution, among people of the Jewish community, of Blackberry mobile phones, with the aim of testing signals for Internet connections he was looking to install in different parts of the island. In September 2009, David Prinstein and others in the Jewish community were in possession of these phones, and used them to access the Internet.
The craven attitude of the authorities of the Jewish Community in Cuba has led to Gross’s sentence of fifteen years in prison and the use of his “confession” as evidence of a charge against U.S. pro-democracy programs in Cuba. Prinstein has escaped the whole thing, and was even promoted to vice president of the Community to replace the young Miller. It would not appear to present much risk to suggest that this “promotion” could be the payment for his close alignment with Cuban government on this murky issue that has, once again, exacerbated tensions in the relationship between Cuba and the United States.
Note: I have not seen whether Prinstein has responded to the accusations in Penultimos Dias. If any readers see a response, please let me know and I will post it.
Lilia Lopez, former Cuba specialist at the non-profit Washington Office on Latin America, wrote on May 25 in the Havana Note that the Obama administration loosened travel restrictions to Cuba, but can’t be too enthusiastic about it as long as Gross is in prison.
The American’s continued imprisonment, Lopez wrote, gives the Obama administration “no political space” to seek greater engagement with Cuba.
Secretary Hillary Clinton said so much, Lopez wrote, in a May 11 speech at the 41st Washington Conference on the Americas. Clinton said:
From the very beginning, the Obama Administration believed that the best way to advance fundamental rights in Cuba – in fact, to advance them anywhere – is to support exchanges and constructive relationships. And there’s no better ambassador for our values than a teacher or an artist or a student or a religious leader, a Cuban American who has made a new life in the United States. That’s why we have eased our restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. We could do more if we saw evidence that there was an opportunity to do so coming from the Cuban side because we want to foster these deeper connections and we want to work for the time when Cuba will enjoy its own transition to democracy…
In the past few weeks we have begun to hear murmurs that Gross may finally be released in the near future….In the meantime, we’re essentially taking a position on Cuba that is neither here nor there. This kind of rudder-less foreign policy doesn’t benefit anyone’s interests in a meaningful way, not those of Cubans, Americans, the U.S. government or Alan Gross.