Cuba’s highest court on July 22 heard the appeal of Alan Gross, the U.S. government subcontractor convicted of violating Cuban law while carrying out a USAID democracy project on the island.
Gross “reiterated that he never had any intention of hurting the Cuban government or its people, and that he has always believed — and still does so today — in the sovereignty of the Cuban nation,” reported the Miami Herald, quoting a statement issued by the defendant’s U.S. lawyer, Peter Kahn.
Kahn is an attorney at a powerhouse Washington, D.C., law firm called Williams & Connolly. The firm’s past clients include:
- Former President Bill Clinton, acquitted of impeachment charges in February 1999.
- Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former press secretary Ari Fleischer, questioned during the investigation into press leaks that blew Valerie Plame’s cover as a CIA agent.
- Retired Marine Corps officer Oliver North, accused in the Iran-Contra scandal.
- John Hinckley, convicted for trying to kill former President Reagan.
Also in July:
On July 4, former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern left Cuba without seeing Fidel Castro as he had hoped. The Associated Press quoted him as saying:
I would have come even if I’d known I wasn’t going to see Fidel. I’m interested in Cuba and the progress they’re making.
Obviously the star of the show when you come to Cuba is Fidel. But I knew that he was ill. I knew that the Venezuelan president was here and took a considerable amount of his time, so I’m not entirely surprised.
On July 6, Robert Sandels, writing in Counterpunch, called USAID programs in Cuba “regime-change in a box.” He wrote:
USAID grantees in Cuba are soft-power agents engaged in covert subversion. Soft power, as described by its leading academic proponent Joseph E. Nye, Jr., is “getting others to want what you want.”
On July 11, Pastors for Peace organized a protest in Washington, D.C. The group criticized, among other things, U.S.-financed democracy programs in Cuba. It said in a statement:
USAID has a $50+ million dollar annual budget to subvert the government of Cuba through so-called “democracy-building” programs. If we’re looking to cut the Federal budget, here’s a good place to start!
Also on July 11, the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain wrote about his recent trip to Cuba. That prompted hundreds of comments, including this one:
Cuba! Really? Why don’t you talk with the family of Alan Gross – a USAID worker imprisoned for 15 years for bringing some computers and internet access to a small Jewish community in Cuba! Yeah, I really want to contribute to that Stalinist regime.
This poor devil, not at all unlike the Famous Five, has unwittingly become the poster child for the enmity that has for too long been emblematic of the dysfunctional relationship between the US and Cuba. It is hard to imagine how two sovereign nations could behave in way more representative of a two-year old having a fit, than these countries have been involved in…and for more than FIFTY years !!!
On July 28, Sen. John Kerry lifted a hold on $20 million in funding of democracy programs in Cuba after USAID and the State Department agreed to review the programs.