By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Jan. 11 — Alan Gross has been in prison in Cuba for 13 months for allegedly distributing illegal electronic equipment as an employee of Development Alternatives a company that works under contract for the US government in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
The imprisonment of Gross on his “mission” in Cuba has given the Obama administration a much used excuse to justify its failure to move the ball on improving US-Cuba relations. Likewise, the US travel ban that prohibits ordinary US citizens from visiting Cuba remains intact as does the half-century economic blockade on the neighboring island nation.
“Gross’s arrest cast a spotlight on a program that has been criticized by Democrats as wasteful and overly politicized. USAID said in a statement that 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,” stated the Washington Post in an article published on Tuesday.
To date, Gross has not been formally charged or given a trial. The possibility that he be exchanged for the Cuban Five, who have been in US jails for over 12 years for conspiracy to commit espionage and other charges, remains a behind the scene topic, although the US State Dept. has repeatedly said such a swap is out of the question.
Gross’s wife and family, including a daughter battling breast cancer, like the relatives of the Cuban Five, continue to hope a diplomatic breakthrough could send their loved ones home.