Tuesday, October 26, 2010

U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross...

To match Exclusive CUBA-USA/CONTRACTOR  

U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross and his wife Judy (2nd L) pose with their daughters during a Friday Shabbat dinner at a friend's home in the Washington area, in this undated family photograph released on October 23, 2010. Judy Gross told Reuters on Saturday that she has written to Cuban President Raul Castro on behalf of her husband, who is currently being held in a Cuban jail. Gross, 61, who worked for a Washington-area company contracted under a U.S. Agency for International Development program to promote democracy in Cuba, was arrested at the Havana airport on December 3 and has been held on suspicion of espionage and subversion. During an interview this weekend, his wife denied he was a spy and said he went to Cuba five times last year to help Havana's Jewish community gain Internet access to Jews worldwide. Gross keeps this picture in jail with him in Cuba and does the Shabbat blessings before it every Friday, according to family spokesperson Sharon Castillo. To match Exclusive CUBA-USA/CONTRACTOR REUTERS/Family Photograph/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS… Read more »

October 25, 2010

Chucho Valdés at Lincoln Center

(fot) Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés and his quartet, the Afro-Cuban Messengers, played Friday and Saturday at Lincoln Center in New York City, and Monday at The Village Vanguard in Manhattan's West Village.
"Mr. Valdés makes excitement in short order," wrote The Times' Ben Ratliff in a review that described the musician's piano playing as "a controlled detonation of music."
Valdés "sounded relaxed, expansive and curious, no matter how fast he was going," Ratliff wrote.
To read the entire review, click here.
Posted by Renato Perez at 09:55 PM in Music, U.S.-Cuba relations
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A puzzling allusion to a conjugal visit

An article in The New York Times on Monday says that "in recent months, the United States allowed the wife of a convicted Cuban spy, Gerardo Hernández, to visit her husband in prison for the (fot2) first time since his arrest 12 years ago."
It's news to me. As far as I know, Adriana Pérez is still trying to get a visa to visit Hernández at the federal penitentiary in Victorville, Calif.
Is there anything the Justice Department is not sharing with us? Or is it just a mistake on the part of Times reporter Ginger Thompson? I lean toward the latter. (PHOTO, from the Cuban publication Invasor, was made 12 years ago or earlier.)
–Renato Pérez Pizarro, with thanks to Walter Lippmann.
Posted by Renato Perez at 06:26 PM in Immigration, Personalities, U.S.-Cuba relations
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S: Cuban Colada

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Remorseful"

As her husband’s case approaches one full year of pre-trial investigation in Cuba, the wife of detained USAID contractor Alan Gross gave an interview to Reuters.

According to the Reuters story, Judy Gross wrote last August to Cuban President Raul Castro to express regret, sort of: “To the extent his work may have offended you or your government, he and I are genuinely remorseful,” she said in the letter.

Later the report paraphrases her saying that Cuba is holding Mr. Gross “as an example of a foreigner who broke their laws.” And a “source close to the case” is quoted speculating that Cuban authorities are seeking “recognition that their sovereignty was violated.”

There’s more interesting detail in the article, including the suggestion by Mrs. Gross that her husband was not warned of the risk involved in his work. She expressed frustration with the White House (but not the State Department), which prompted a White House statement calling Mr. Gross’ detention “unwarranted” and adding: “Administration officials have repeatedly made clear to Cuban authorities that Alan Gross should be released immediately to be able to rejoin his wife and family – and we will continue to do so.”

If that’s the sum and substance of the Administration’s message, it’s not clear to me that it will be of much help.

What is new in all this is that Mr. Gross is putting some distance between him and the program for which he worked.

The Administration, for its part, doesn’t seem to have distanced itself from the Bush Administration modus operandi for USAID Cuba programs, which the New York Times describes as “semi-covert.” At least not in public, that is – the Times goes on to report:

“In an effort to win Mr. Gross’s release, administration officials and Congressional aides said Usaid had quietly changed the way it administers its programs in Cuba, shifting the focus from those intent on ‘regime change’ to those that support educational exchanges and the growth of small businesses.”

If that’s the case, why doesn’t the Obama Administration explain in public how it has put its own stamp on the program?

You Call This "Reform"?

While the Castro regime tries to deceive the world that it's undertaking "reforms" -- and "Cuba experts," journalists and apologists try to help it make the pitch -- the international community has rejected the regime's charade four times this past week.

1. Last Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed doubt that the Castro regime has taken sufficient steps to merit any reciprocity.

2. Last Wednesday, the Spanish government dismissed Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose obsession had become rescuing the Castro regime.

3. Last Thursday, the European Parliament recognized Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas with its 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

4. And today, the European Union's Foreign Minister's refused to scrap the trading bloc's Common Position towards Cuba, which conditions the normalization of relations to the respect for fundamental human rights.

In other words, the message is clear:

Transferring a group of innocent men, which had been unjustly imprisoned for years due to their political beliefs, from a prison cell to forced exile in Spain is not "reform" by any stretch of the imagination.

Particularly, as the Castro regime continues to beat, harass and arrest countless others on the island.

As one of those banished political prisoners, Juan Adolfo Fernandez Sainz, stated in today's Wall Street Journal:

"Until the Castro regime repeals all its laws violating human rights, allows multi-party elections, free trade unions and independent media, and lets Cubans participate fully in our economy and travel freely, any attempt to normalize relations with Cuba would be premature."
 
S: Capitol Hill Cubans

American held in Cuba expresses regret to Raul Castro...


Alan Gross with his wife Judy
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The wife of a U.S. aid contractor jailed in Cuba has written to President Raul Castro expressing her husband's regret for his work there and told Reuters the White House has done little to gain his release.

Judy Gross said that in the letter, which Castro read but did not respond to, she pleaded with him to free her husband Alan because their daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and he is needed at home.

Alan Gross, 61, who worked for a Washington-area company contracted under a U.S. Agency for International Development program to promote democracy in Cuba, was arrested at the Havana airport on December 3 and has been held on suspicion of espionage and subversion.

In an interview this weekend, his wife denied he was a spy and said he went to Cuba five times last year to help Havana's Jewish community gain Internet access to Jews worldwide.

Cuban officials say Gross committed "serious crimes" by giving restricted satellite communications equipment to local dissidents, but no legal charges have been filed.

His detention has stalled efforts by Washington to improve ties with the communist-led island.

Judy Gross criticized the White House for not doing enough to seek release of her husband, whom she called a "pawn" caught up in a decades-old ideological feud between the United States and Cuba. She said she has heard nothing from President Barack Obama.

The White House said on Sunday it shared her "concern and frustration with the continued unwarranted detention of her husband."

"Administration officials have repeatedly made clear to Cuban authorities that Alan Gross should be released immediately to be able to rejoin his wife and family -- and we will continue to do so," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.

In an August 4 letter to Castro, she wrote, "I recognize today that the Cuban government may not like the type of work that Alan was doing in Cuba."

"But I want you to know that Alan loves the people of Cuba, and he only wanted to help them. He never intended them, or your government, any harm," she said.

"To the extent his work may have offended you or your government, he and I are genuinely remorseful," she wrote.

She told Castro her family needed Gross home since his 26-year-old daughter, whose name she asked not be used, was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

The only response came at a meeting this month with Jorge Alberto Bolanos, head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, who offered mother and daughter visas to visit Gross in Cuba. He said President Castro had read her letter.

'CAGED LION'
Cuba allowed Judy Gross to visit her husband in late July at Havana's Finlay Military Hospital where he shares a cell with two Cubans. They met during the day for three days in an improvised visiting room.

"He looked like walking death," she said of her first sight of her burly 6-foot husband, who in almost 11 months of detention has lost 86 pounds.

"His pants and shirt were too big. It was a shock."

Gross was dragging his right foot due to a disk problem that will need surgery, suffers from arthritis, has gout and developed an ulcer from the stress and diet, she said.

"For a long time they kept the lights on all night. The heat was unbearable," she said. Following complaints by U.S. diplomats, his cell now has air conditioning and a television set on which he watches lots of baseball.

But she returned home to news of her daughter's illness and when it was passed on to her husband, he was devastated.

"He felt totally impotent, unable to do anything for a daughter in need. He feels like a caged lion. He cannot relax. He feels he has to get out of there," said his wife.

WHITE HOUSE ABSENT
She has met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and praised U.S. State Department efforts on her husband's behalf.

But Judy Gross expressed disappointment with Obama for failing to weigh in, even though her husband spent five weeks campaigning in rural Virginia for Obama's election.

"Not a call, not even an email," she said. Alan Gross's 88-year-old mother Evelyn wrote to Obama and got no response.

While the Cuban government has not stated its conditions for releasing Gross, a source close to the case said it likely wants Washington to end its Cuba aid programs, which Cuban leaders view as attempts to subvert the communist government.

"I think they want a recognition that their sovereignty was violated. They see USAID's 'Cuban Democratization Program' as intended to undermine their authority, and one would expect they want that policy changed," the source said.

Meanwhile, the Cubans are holding Gross hostage as an example of a foreigner who broke their laws, his wife said.

"If Alan thought something was going to happen to him in Cuba, he would not have done this. I feel he was not clearly told the risks," she said.

By Anthony Boadle
Sunday ,October 24,2010

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