January roundup

Two pieces of news:

  1. The State Department received my Dec. 28 request under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, and is processing the request. Visit the Cuba Money Project’s FOIA Tracker for details.
  2. I have started a new feature – a roundup of news related to Cuba and USAID. It is below. Feel free to send me any items I have missed. My email: maninhavana@yahoo.com. Thanks!
  • On Jan. 11, 17 religious leaders, including Roman Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl, held a prayer service in Washington, D.C., to appeal for the release of American development worker Alan Gross.
  • USAID told the Washington Post it continued to carry out democracy programs in Cuba “to empower Cuban civil society to advocate for greater democratic freedoms and respect for human dignity.” But, the newspaper said, oversight had strengthened and USAID programs were no longer sending satellite communications gear into Cuba.
  • On Jan. 12, the fourth round of U.S.-Cuba migration talks took place in Havana. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson led the U.S. delegation. Cuban officials allowed her to see Alan Gross. While in Havana, Jacobson and other American officials also met with Cuban dissidents, against the wishes of the socialist government.
  • The Havana Note said Jacobson’s meeting with dissidents “evoked an angry response” from Cuba’s foreign ministry, which said:

    This act confirms once again that there’s no change in the U.S. policy of subversion and interference in Cuban internal affairs, and that its priority continues to be to encourage internal counterrevolution and promote destabilizing activities, while it intensifies the embargo and the persecution of Cuban financial and commercial transactions around the world.

  • On Jan. 13, a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters that he believed the Gross case was moving forward, and Cuban officials expected that he would be charged and tried. “I am cautiously optimistic because of things we hear that that would be the case,” the official said when asked if Gross would be released and sent home after being tried, adding that Cuban officials had made “encouraging noises.”
  • The Obama administration’s Jan. 14 announcement promoting “purposeful travel” to Cuba triggered speculation that Cuba may free Gross sometime soon. Chris Sabatini, senior director of policy at the New York-based Americas Society, told journalist Larry Luxner:

    I would venture a guess that Alan Gross will probably not be in a Cuban jail any longer than the end of this month, and probably will be out sooner than that. The White House couldn’t have made these announcements without a Cuban promise to release him.

  • On Jan. 16, the Center for a Free Cuba urged that Gross be released, saying, “Gross has now spent a year in prison in Cuba for the ‘crime’ of giving his laptop and a cell phone to Cubans.”
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