Harder Line on Cuba in Alan Gross Push

After Election, Is Havana Confrontation Best Policy?

Havana Headache: President Obama’s reelection could open the way to talks to free Alan Gross. Are his supporters missing the boat by painting Cuba into a corner, instead of pinning hopes on better U.S. ties with the island nation.
courtesy of gross family
Havana Headache: President Obama’s reelection could open the way to talks to free Alan Gross. Are his supporters missing the boat by painting Cuba into a corner, instead of pinning hopes on better U.S. ties with the island nation.

By Paul Berger

Published November 19, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
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The campaign to free Alan Gross, a Jewish contract worker jailed in Cuba for almost three years, has dramatically ramped up since President Obama’s reelection.

But experts warn that the latest salvos in the battle to free Gross, led by his wife, Judy, and a prominent human rights lawyer, are scattershot and potentially counterproductive.

“There is not a single, self-respecting, knowledgeable Cuba expert who thinks this new strategy is comprehensive or has a snowball’s chance of working,” said Fulton Armstrong, a former national intelligence officer for Latin America at the CIA.

“This is a very fluid moment,” added Julia Sweig, a Latin America specialist for the Council on Foreign Relations. “It is a moment when the Obama administration should well be getting in a room and negotiating the terms of [Gross’s] release. I would hate to see any of this public pressure diminish or hurt that environment.”

The Gross family, led by lawyer Peter Kahn, started turning up the heat on the administration and on the Cuban government at the beginning of this year, taking to newspapers and television to blast both sides for using Gross as a pawn in U.S.-Cuba brinksmanship.

Since the presidential election, on November 6, the campaign has become even fiercer.

On November 11, Jared Genser, a human rights lawyer, and Judy Gross, staged a protest in Florida outside of a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba. The same day, they released a letter from more than 500 rabbis to Cuban leader Raul Castro, calling for Alan’s release on humanitarian grounds and they reported Cuba to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture claiming that an insufficient amount of medical attention they said was being given to Alan constituted torture.


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