Blogger Handed 5-Year Prison Sentence

Saturday, December 8, 2012
Renowned Cuban writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban has been handed a 5-year prison sentence by the Castro regime for his criticism of the dictatorship.

Santiesteban used to be a member of the Castro regime's official writer's union (UNEAC) -- the only one permitted on the island -- and was even awarded the Casa de las Americas prize in 2006.

However, all of that changed once he started an independent blog, "Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso" ("The Sons That Nobody Wanted") and began criticizing the dictatorship.

Since then, he has been the subject of continuous harassment and false accusations.

"I have not been sanctioned by a tribunal. I have been sanctioned by State Security for starting a blog and being an opponent of the government," said Santiesteban.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Imprisoned Journalist's Life at Risk

By Roberto de Jesús Guerra for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting:

Cuban Journalist Pressured to End Hunger Strike

Authorities order water withheld from Calixto Martínez Arias.

Independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a reporter for the Hablemos Press Information Centre, has been on hunger strike for close to a month now.

Martínez Arias was detained on September 16 near Cuba’s international airport in Havana while investigating allegations of a damaged shipment of medicines sent by the World Health Organisation.

The authorities charged him with insulting President Raúl Castro and his brother Fidel Castro, the first leader of post-revolutionary Cuba. (See Cuban Journalist Faces Charge of Insulting Castros.)

Martínez Arias, 42, began a hunger strike on November 10. At a meeting with his sister on November 30, he told her he planned to carry on, as a way of protesting against overcrowding in the jail, and also against having to wear prison uniform and being stripped of all of his belongings.

The authorities at the Combinado del Este Prison, where Martínez Arias is being held, are refusing to disclose information on his health.

A fellow inmate, who requested anonymity, said by phone that on December 7, State Security officers took Martínez Arias out of the punishment cell he was in and asked him to end his hunger strike.

The prisoner said Martínez Arias told him afterwards that the officers were “from Villa Marista” – State Security headquarters.

“They took him out to try to force him to end his hunger strike, [and show that] they won’t give in to pressure. But he made it clear that he would continue his strike because they had refused to offer him any kind of guarantees,” the inmate said. “When he returned to his cell, they denied him water in order to force him to end his strike.”

Another prisoner confirmed the incident, saying he saw two officers in green uniforms with State Security insignia taking Martínez Arias out of his cell on December 6.

He saw him the following morning, and Martínez Arias told him that “he was feeling weak, but wouldn’t give up his strike”.

Speaking on December 6, Martínez Arias’s lawyer said he had still not been given access to the journalist’s records, despite having requested them on two occasions.

In a statement issued on December 7, the Inter-American Press Association reiterated its demand for “the immediate release of the Cuban journalist… who has been imprisoned since September and has been on hunger strike for nearly a month in protest against the appalling conditions in which he is being held”.

The president of the association’s committee for press freedom, Claudio Paolillo, said, “The Cuban government has a tendency to ignore local and international appeals against their deplorable human rights abuses. We cannot be silent in the face of constant violations.”

Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez is an independent journalist and founder of the Hablemos Press news agency in Cuba.

Another Day in Cuba

By Jay Nordlinger in National Review:

A recent episode in Cuba has the friends of that nation quite upset. As I understand it, a 15-year-old girl named Berenice Héctor González was defending her aunt, a member of the Ladies in White. The Ladies in White are a group made up of wives, sisters, daughters, and other relatives of political prisoners. They do such things as march silently through the streets and hold candlelight vigils. The dictatorship considers them a great threat, and attacks them, physically, often.

For the offense of defending her aunt and other Ladies in White against taunts — “Putas,” etc. — Berenice was sliced up, with a knife, by the daughter of a state-security official. Berenice was sliced all over her body, basically. When she and her family went to seek justice — again, as I understand it — they were beaten. This is absolutely standard operating procedure in the Castros’ paradise.

For those who can bear it, a video (in Spanish) is here. I now await the usual mail from the American Left telling me that 15-year-old Berenice is a Batista stooge (that dictator having been removed from power in 1959, almost 40 years before Berenice was born).

A friend of mine in Miami, a Cuban exile, wrote me in particular despair. She said, “What can we do? What is the best way to stop this?” I don’t know. The Cuban people — like other peoples under totalitarian dictatorship — seem helpless before their persecutors. Most of the world is indifferent. Che Guevara’s face graces, or defaces, a billion T-shirts. Fidel Castro receives warmest treatment in American universities, and, personally, from many members of our political establishment (Congressman Rangel, Congressman Serrano, and so on).

For three years, Alan Gross, an American aid worker, has been held hostage in Cuba. The United States either can’t do anything or won’t do anything. For a National Review piece last year, I asked Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, about the matter. I said, “Why doesn’t the Castro government pay a price for this? I mean, we’re the United States, and they’re holding an aid worker of ours hostage? Are we a superpower or what?”

She said, in essence, “Jay, what are you talking about? They killed three U.S. citizens and one permanent resident. They blew them out of the skies, when they were in international airspace. [These were Brothers to the Rescue pilots, looking for wretches on rafts to pick up, before they drowned.] The dictatorship paid basically no price for that. You think they’re going to pay a price for holding an aid worker hostage?”

Ah — when you put it that way . . .

P.S. A happy, laudable thing occurred in 2005: The Ladies in White won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. This is given by the European Parliament. If the Ladies or a dissident such as Oscar Biscet won the Nobel prize, that would rock Cuba, I think. But you remember what Armando Valladares (one of the greatest of the dissidents) said: “If the Cuban dictatorship were right-wing instead of left-wing, we’d have won two or three Nobel prizes already.” For sure.

Time to Pressure Castro

Friday, December 7, 2012
By Jose Cardenas in The Washington Times:

U.S. must pressure Cuba for release of Alan Gross

This week marked the third anniversary of Cuba’s arrest of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross for the “crime” of delivering Internet equipment to a Jewish group in Havana. Working under a U.S. program to support the Cuban people — as opposed to the Cuban regime — Mr. Gross subsequently was sentenced in a Cuban kangaroo court to 15 years in prison for acts “against the state.”

The ordeal has taken a terrible toll on Mr. Gross. He reportedly has lost more than 100 pounds, may have cancer and has been unable to see his elderly mother, also stricken with cancer. None of this is of any concern to the Castro government.

In fact, the regime has made it clear that Mr. Gross is merely a bargaining chip, dangling his possible release in exchange for five convicted Cuban intelligence operatives serving prison sentences for illegal activities in the United States, including spying on U.S. defense facilities.

To its credit, the Obama administration has spurned the offer, rightly rejecting any equivalence between the cases. This week, 31 U.S. senators co-sponsored a resolution similarly rejecting any ransom deal and demanding Mr. Gross‘ unconditional release.

Mr. Gross‘ case also has benefited from his wife Judy’s indefatigable campaign to secure his release. In recent days, she started a flurry of activity to increase pressure on both Cuba and now the United States to resolve her husband’s ordeal, including launching a $60 million lawsuit against the U.S. government and the contractor that employed him and becoming more critical of the Obama administration, calling on it now to make the concessions necessary to gain Mr. Gross‘ freedom.

One can only imagine the pain and desperation Mrs. Gross is feeling, knowing her husband is in the hands of an unaccountable group of thugs that remains in power by brutalizing others. Yet the sad reality is that Judy Gross has been victimized twice — first by the Castro government’s unjust incarceration of her husband and second by misguided advice from her attorneys that has prolonged her husband’s incarceration.

Her first legal team advocated “quiet diplomacy,” relying on the imagined good will of the Castro regime eventually to recognize the error of its ways and summarily release Mr. Gross. Two years later, not surprisingly, that approach has proved a failure, as Mrs. Gross has come to realize.

She then signed on with human rights lawyer Jared Genser, who has launched a much more aggressive campaign, including appealing the case to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture. Unfortunately, Mr. Genser apparently believes now in treating the U.S. government as a virtual co-conspirator in Mr. Gross‘ continued incarceration.

As he recently said at a Washington news conference, “President Obama needs to send a high-level envoy to Cuba who has the authority to discuss the range of issues in the bilateral relationship and to make whatever decisions are necessary to bring Alan home.”

A new strategy is indeed needed to obtain Mr. Gross‘ release, but making U.S. policy an issue should not be any part of it. Not only does it muddy the moral waters of what clearly is an unmitigated injustice committed by the Cuban regime, but it actually serves Havana’s purpose by furthering the regime propaganda campaign that it is not Cuban behavior that needs to change, but U.S. policy.

Indeed, what incentive is there on Cuba’s part to release Mr. Gross anytime soon when Mr. Genser is publicly attacking U.S. policy and focusing on what Washington needs to do to resolve the situation? That approach may win plaudits from editorialists at The New York Times, but the practical result will only be more jail time for Mr. Gross.

As should have been clear from the beginning of this ordeal, Mr. Gross is only coming home when his Cuban captors realize that the cost of continuing to hold him outweighs the benefits. The only way to make them feel the cost is to hit them in the pocketbook, which means rolling back such signature administration initiatives as liberalized travel to Cuba, which puts desperately needed hard currency in the regime’s coffers. If Mrs. Gross‘ lawyers want to take on the administration, that is where they need to focus their efforts. The sooner the Cuban government sees fewer cash-carrying U.S. visitors to subsidize its control of the Cuban people, the sooner Alan Gross finally will be reunited with his suffering family.

Iberia Halts Flights to Havana

Spanish airlines, Iberia, is permanently halting flights to Havana starting on April 1st, 2013, as part of the carrier's restructuring policy.

Iberia said these flights were no longer profitable.

This will surely have a collateral effect on Spain's tourism investments with the Castro regime -- and to the demand for prostitution on the island.

The airline said it would rather focus on destinations like Mexico and Miami.

The Absurdity of "People-to-Castro" Travel

One of the most deceptive -- albeit perhaps well-intentioned -- aspects of the Obama Administration's Cuba policy is its so-called "people-to-people" travel.

As we've long-stated, the current "people-to-people" trips barely provide any contact with non-governmental Cubans.

To the contrary, from Day 1, these trips are approved by the Cuban dictatorship and their itineraries are almost unanimously composed of visits with Castro regime officials. 

But don't believe us -- here's an excerpt from CNN's report this week:

"[W]hile the policy has kicked off a debate over what is a "meaningful" exchange, a flood of tour operators has entered the still uncertain world of travel to Cuba.

Americans interested in visiting Cuba are offered free CDs of Cuban music and itineraries that include welcome parties thrown by Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, neighborhood watch groups that were created with the original intention of thwarting a U.S. invasion."

That's right -- "welcome parties thrown by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution," otherwise known as the CDRs.

Of course, CNN fails to explain that the CDRs are the Castro regime's network of informants that report to the secret police any activities by dissidents and civil society activists.

In other words, they are the first-tier of repression.

And now, they are the first-tier of contact with American "people-to-people" travelers.

So how does this further the Obama Administration's policy goal of fostering "independence" for the Cuban people from the Castro regime?

It's absurd.

How Castro Profits From Human Exploitation

Thursday, December 6, 2012
Excerpt by Maria Werlau in The Miami Herald:

Cuba’s partners in human exploitation

Currently, around 700 Cuban health professionals are in Haiti. Cuba has similar government-to-government agreements with over 70 countries. These partnerships allow the Castro dictatorship to reap huge financial gains, avoid needed reform, and increase international influence to advance its agendas. Meanwhile, the export of scarce medical resources is causing a severe public health crisis in Cuba. Doctors and basic medical supplies are hard to find and facilities are falling apart.

When the earthquake struck, 344 Cuban health professionals were working throughout Haiti; more were immediately sent and deployed to the most remote areas. Cuba had long been receiving millions from international organizations and countries such as France and Japan for these services. Great need and corresponding international largesse became a golden opportunity. Just weeks after the disaster, Cuba was promoting a gigantic endeavor to build a new healthcare infrastructure for Haiti at an annual cost of $170 million, to be paid for by international donors. Cubans and Cuban-trained medical staff would run it at “half the international prices.”

Countless millions are now pouring into Cuba from the Pan American and World Health Organizations, dozens of NGOs, foundations, companies, and individuals from the United States, Canada, Spain, Belgium and others. Many governments have also donated — Venezuela $20 million to start, Brazil $80 million, Norway $2.5 million. The list of donations is undisclosed, but France, Australia, Japan, and other countries have apparently chipped in. The cost to Haiti is just a $300 monthly stipend to each Cuban health worker plus transportation and housing.

Haiti is just one very profitable subsidiary in Cuba’s global multi-billion dollar ¨humanitarian¨ enterprise. Most of its profits come off the backs of Cubans indentured as “collaborators.” Angola, for example, reportedly pays Cuba $60,000 annually per doctor; the doctor receives $2,940 (4.9 percent), at most. These service exports bring more than three times the earnings from tourism and far more than any other industry — $7.5 billion in 2010, the last year reported. Business is so good that in 2010 the Cuban government reduced an already decimated local health staff by 14 percent to send more abroad.

Tweets of the Week

By USAID's Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mark Feierstein:
And by The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl:

Absolute Fool of the Year

Do you know how many democracies are in the Middle East?  Iran is one of the few democracies.
-- Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, interview in Argentina's C5N television network, 12/4/12

Please, For the Sake of Journalism

Dear foreign news bureaus in Havana:

For the sake of journalism, we urge you to call attention to the unjust imprisonment of Cuban independent journalist, Calixto Martinez Arias.

During the summer, Calixto broke the news of a cholera outbreak in Cuba weeks after the government declared it eradicated. He then discovered five tons of humanitarian aid sent to Cuba by the Word Health Organization (WHO), which was left to spoil at Havana's airport.

In democratic countries, Calixto would be recognized for his audacious investigative reporting.

However, in Cuba, he was arrested on September 16th and charged with "disrespect" to the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro.

He is currently on the 25th day of a hunger strike, and in a very weakened state, at the infamous Combinado del Este prison.

Please inform the world about your professional colleague, Calixto Martinez Arias.

If in your home countries criticizing (or the perception of criticizing) political figures would be a "crime" -- you'd all be in prison.

The only difference between you and Calixto is that you were fortunate enough to be born in freedom.

Thank you in advance.

Senate Passes Unanimous Alan Gross Resolution

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The U.S. Senate has just passed the following resolution by unanimous consent:

RESOLUTION

Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of United States citizen Alan Phillip Gross from detention in Cuba and urging the Government of Cuba to address his medical issues.

Whereas, Alan Phillip Gross, a citizen of the United States, was born in New York on May 2, 1949, and is a resident of the State of Maryland;

Whereas Mr. Gross has devoted his professional life to helping others through his work in international development and has served in more than 50 countries and territories worldwide;

Whereas, in 2001, Mr. Gross founded Joint Business Development Center, LLC to support Internet connectivity in locations with little or no access;

Whereas, on February 10, 2009, Joint Business Development Center, LLC received a subcontract with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID);

Whereas, working as a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, Mr. Gross sought to establish wireless networks and improve Internet and Intranet access and connectivity for a small, peaceful,non-dissident, Cuban Jewish community;

Whereas Mr. Gross made 5 trips to Cuba in furtherance of the United States Agency for International Development project he was subcontracted to support;

Whereas the last time Mr. Gross was in the United States was on November 24, 2009;

Whereas Mr. Gross was arrested on December 3, 2009, in Havana, Cuba;

Whereas Mr. Gross was detained without charge for 14 months;

Whereas Mr. Gross was charged in February 2011 with ‘‘actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state’’;

Whereas Mr. Gross’s trial lasted only 2 days, after which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison;

Whereas Mr. Gross and his wife Judy have 2 daughters, one of which was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010;

Whereas Mr. Gross’s 90-year old mother was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in February 2011;

Whereas, in 2011, Mr. Gross’s wife Judy underwent surgery, causing her to miss considerable time from work and putting further financial strain on their family;

Whereas Mr. Gross is 63 years old and has lost more than 105 pounds since being detained in Cuba;

Whereas Mr. Gross has developed degenerative arthritis in his leg and a mass behind his shoulder;

Whereas the Government of Cuba has denied requests by Mr. Gross for an independent medical examination;

Whereas Mr. Gross’s legal representative filed an appeal to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations in August 2012; and

Whereas, since Mr. Gross was detained by the Government of Cuba on December 3, 2009, his health has severely deteriorated and his family members have suffered health and financial problems: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of United States citizen Alan Phillip Gross; and

(2) urges the Government of Cuba in the meantime to provide all appropriate diagnostic and medical treatment to address the full range of medical issues facing Mr. Gross and to allow him to choose a doctor to provide him with an independent medical assessment.

WaPo: No Gross-for-Spies Deal

CHC: The part about the Cuban-American vote is inaccurate (see here for actual results).  However, policy-wise, the WaPo is dead-on.

From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

U.S. shouldn’t hand Cuba an Alan Gross-for-spies deal
 
WITH THE presidential election over, supporters of better U.S.-Cuban relations are calling on President Obama, who won a majority of the Cuban American vote, to seek accord with the Castro regime. They forget the case of Alan Gross, the American development contractor who this week began his fourth year in a Cuban military prison.

Mr. Gross, of Potomac, was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, after he delivered satellite telephones to members of Cuba’s tiny Jewish community. He had been hired to provide the equipment by the U.S. Agency for International Development; the aim was to help Cuban Jews connect to the Internet.

In 2011, Mr. Gross was convicted of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years in prison. There the now-63-year-old has remained, despite health problems that include a severe loss of weight, arthritis and a growth on his shoulder. His appeals to visit his gravely ill, 90-year-old mother have been denied. Cuban president Raúl Castro has repeatedly turned down proposals to release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds, despite visits from envoys ranging from U.S. senators to former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson.

The Castro government says it wants to repair relations with the United States, win the lifting of what remains of the U.S. trade embargo and attract investment from American companies. So why keep Mr. Gross in prison? The answer, unfortunately, is relatively simple. Cuba wants to swap its prisoner for five Cuban spies who were arrested in Florida in 1998. The network infiltrated a U.S. Navy base and anti-Castro groups and provided information that facilitated Cuba’s 1996 shoot-down in international airspace of two planes carrying members of one of the groups. Four U.S. citizens died. The head of the network was sentenced to life in prison after a 2001 trial, while others were given lesser terms. One is now out on probation.

There is no equivalence between Mr. Gross and the five prisoners, as Havana itself acknowledges. It agrees the Florida prisoners were its spies, but it has never charged Mr. Gross with espionage. But Mr. Castro sees Mr. Gross as the leverage to spring his agents, whom the state propaganda apparatus portrays as heroes. More significantly, by arranging an exchange, the regime believes it can reshape U.S.-Cuban relations on its own terms, without having to make concessions on human rights.

The Gross family has appealed to Mr. Obama to send a high-level envoy to Cuba and to do what is necessary to obtain his release. That’s understandable, but the administration ought to stick to its refusal to countenance such a bargain. On the contrary, Mr. Obama should consider new steps to punish the Castro regime for the continued imprisonment of Mr. Gross, and the administration should do more to raise his case in international forums.

Better relations between Cuba and the United States must be conditioned on real steps toward democratization by Havana. But until Mr. Gross is released, they ought to get worse.

U.N. Finds Gross Detention Against Int'l Law

United Nations Finds Alan Gross to be Detained in Violation of International Law

Washington, D.C. - Jared Genser, attorney for imprisoned USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross, today issued the following comments:

According to wire service reports, Ms. Josefina Vidal, head of North American Affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry held a press conference this afternoon.

She stated the Government of Cuba had received notification from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that it was holding Alan Gross in violation of international law.  This independent and impartial body at the United Nations – which consists of experts from Chile, Norway, Pakistan, Senegal, and Ukraine – issues written judgments considering the evidence presented both by petitioners alleging arbitrary detention and the governments detaining them.  In this case, we submitted the petition to the United Nations on behalf of Alan Gross on August 7, 2012. 

The Government of Cuba has talented lawyers working for its Foreign Ministry and they submitted a 34-page response with 25 footnotes that vigorously disputed our assertions that Cuba is violating provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty that it signed.  It seems the Government of Cuba was informed today it lost the case and its ongoing detention of Alan Gross is in violation of international law.

Under the procedures of the Working Group, the Government is given a two-week preview of the written opinion before it is provided to the petitioner.  Therefore, we have not yet seen the written judgment and were surprised to learn the Government of Cuba held a press conference to announce it had lost its case.
 
I call on the Government of Cuba to release the judgment of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention so that the international community can see what the United Nations has itself said.  Contrary to Ms. Vidal's assertions of the irrelevance of this opinion, it is obvious the Government of Cuba wanted to win this case to vindicate what it had claimed all along – that it was justified in detaining Alan Gross.  Indeed, if this United Nations body was so irrelevant, then why spend any time bothering to respond to our petition? 

In accordance with this judgment, the Government of Cuba should immediately release Alan Gross from prison and allow him to return to the United States to be reunited with his wife Judy and their two daughters.  Regardless, however, of the outcome of this case, Alan's health is declining and it has long been clear he should be immediately released on humanitarian grounds.

Claims by Ms. Vidal that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention violated its procedures and ruled faster than allowable under pressure from the United States are specious and demonstrably insulting to the professional and independent jurists who serve on the panel.  The procedures of the Working Group are publicly available and very clear.  Upon submission by a petitioner, a government is given 60 days to respond and may request up to a 30-day extension.  We submitted our petition on August 7, 2012, and the Government of Cuba responded on November 9, 2012. 

Under the Working Group's procedures, the case is heard during its next forthcoming session, which occurs every four months.  It so happened that the next session of the Working Group had been scheduled for November 14-23, 2012.  Therefore, this case was adopted in full compliance with the Working Group's standard procedures.

UNiTE Ignores Violence Against Women

And no, it's not an oxymoron.

On Monday, Mexican singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas gave a concert in Havana as part of the United Nations Secretary General’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women, UNiTE.

Of course, the concert was at a closed theater with access controlled by the Castro regime.

Yet, the day before, the following members of The Ladies in White, a peaceful women's pro-democracy movement, were beaten and arrested for simply to trying to attend Mass.

1. Maria Cristina Labrada Barona
2. Anisley Pavón Goberna
3. Aimé Moya Montes de Oca
4. Lisandra Farray Rodríguez
5. Sandra Rodríguez Gatorno
6. Marbelis González Reyes
7. Lis Eladia Quiñones González
8. Raquel Rodríguez Morejón
9. Dianelis Rodríguez Morejón
10. Olga Lidia Torres Iglesias
11. Noralis Martín Hernández
12. Romelia Piña González
13. Danay  Mendiola Duquesne
14. Liliana Campo Bruzon
15.Bertha Guerrero Segura
16. Rosa María Naranjo Nieves

Yet, they weren't mentioned by Julieta Venegas during the concert -- nor has their arrest been condemned by UNiTE.

So how can UNiTE effectively fight violence against women if they ignore it right under their noses?

Arrests, Arrests and More Arrests

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
See if you can identify the trend.

Last month, there were 410 documented political arrests by the Castro regime in Cuba.

Compare that to 257 documented political arrests in November 2011 and 244 documented political arrests in November 2010.

In the last 11 months, there have been 6,035 documented political arrests in Cuba.

Compare that to 4,123 documented political arrests in all of 2011 and 2,074 documented political arrests in all of 2010.

This year, the average number of documented political arrests -- thus far -- is 549 per month.

Compare that to an average of 343 political arrests per month in 2011 and 172 arrests per month in 2010.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Data courtesy of the Cuba Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Free Sonia Garro

Sonia Garro, a member of The Ladies in White pro-democracy movement, has been imprisoned by the Castro regime -- without trial or charges -- since March 18th, 2012.

Demand her freedom now.

Immediate and Unconditional Release of Alan Gross

Senators Cardin, Moran and Mikulski Call for Cuba's Immediate Release of Alan Gross

Resolution introduced on 3rd Anniversary of Alan Gross’ arrest in Havana

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) have introduced a resolution calling on Cuba to immediately and unconditionally release Marylander Alan Gross. The resolution, introduced on the 3rd Anniversary of Mr. Gross’ arrest in Havana, Cuba, is co-sponsored by 29 of their Senate colleagues including Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). It also urges the Cuban government to address Mr. Gross’ medical issues. When passed, it will mark the first time Congress has taken the step of passing a resolution condemning Mr. Gross’ arrest and calling for his release. Sens. Cardin, Moran and Mikulski held a joint press conference with Judy Gross, the wife of Alan Gross, this morning to discuss the resolution.

“Year after year, the Cuban Government continues to demonstrate why bilateral relations between our two countries remain frozen,” Sen. Cardin said. “Alan Gross should no longer be forced to suffer the consequences of political gamesmanship. Enough is enough. Alan should be immediately and unconditionally released so he can return home for medical treatment and to support his family. The health and humanitarian needs of he and his family are paramount,”

“The Senate’s passage of this resolution will send a loud and clear message to Cuba: it is past time for Alan Gross to come home,” Sen. Moran said. “For more than a decade, I have worked to open Cuban markets to American agriculture. This year, however, I stepped back from these efforts because the Cuban government has a responsibility to cooperate with the United States on the unjust detention of Alan Gross. The path to improved America-Cuba relations has always been difficult, but it is that much more difficult and unlikely until Cuba releases Alan Gross.”

“It’s long past time Alan Gross be immediately and unconditionally released from his imprisonment in Cuba,” Sen. Mikulski said. “For three years he and his family have suffered from these bogus charges and a sham trial. And for three years the Cuban government has ignored basic human rights and has shown they are not serious about building a relationship with the United States. I want Alan and Judy Gross to know that they are not in this fight alone. I will continue to do all I can so Alan can come home to Maryland and his family.”

Alan Gross was arrested on December 3, 2009, and after a two-day trial, was given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for facilitating communications between Cuba’s Jewish community and the rest of the world. Mr. Gross was in Cuba working as a sub-contractor for the United States Agency for International Development, helping a small, peaceful, non-dissident community. He was doing the type of work he had done his whole career in international development – helping others in need.

A 63-year-old husband and father, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds since his arrest and suffers from severe degenerative arthritis that affects his mobility, as well as other health problems. The Cuban Government has denied requests by Mr. Gross for an independent medical examination by a doctor of his choosing. Members of his family have also faced serious illnesses during this time.

The Violence and Impunity Continues

The Castro regime's brutal repression -- and impunity -- against non-violent democratic activists remains steadily on the rise.

Here's a compilation of some of this past weekend's violent arrest of activists.

From the Committee for Racial Integration and the Citizen's Observatory Against Discrimination: Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, Leonardo Calvo Cárdenas and Eleanor Calvo Cárdenas.

From the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) in eastern Cuba: Adisnidia Cruz Segreo, Lázaro Romero, Luis E. Benítez, Ernesto Riverí, Alexei Vargas, Aracelio Rivao, Jonris Brea, Edel Ruiz, Alexis Kuán, Willian Cepeda, Rolando Humberto González, Rubén Adrogue, Osmani Sántos, Matilde Mejías, Miraida Martín, Adriana Núñez, Yilian Cebreco, Yesica Miranda and Ovidio Martín.

From the The Ladies in White: Berta Guerrero, Jacqueline García, Anisley Pavon and Maria C. Labrada.

From the Central Opposition Coalition: Yanoisy Contreras, Jesus Rodriguez, Jorge Vazquez Chaviano, Luis Enrique Monzon, Luis Enrique Santos, Onelia Alonso and Joselino Lopez.

From The Movement for Civil Thought: Rolando Reyes Brim.

Meanwhile, Calixto Martinez, a 42- year old independent journalist, is on the 23rd day of his hunger strike. He is currently being held -- without trial -- in a punishment cell in the notorious Combinado del Este Prison. His "crime" was exposing the cholera outbreak, which the Castro regime was trying to hide from the public.

And a Cuban state security official shoved signature sheets from the "For Another Cuba" petition into the mouth of pro-democracy activist, Yuri Martines.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Hostage-for-Prisoners Swap Unlikely

Monday, December 3, 2012
In The Miami Herald:

U.S.: Trading Alan Gross for Cuban spies is unlikely

Asked if a Gross-for-spies swap might be possible, a State Department official replied, ‘No, I don’t think so.’

Cuba’s offer to swap U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross for five Cuban spies convicted in Miami is not at all acceptable to Washington, a senior State Department official affirmed Monday on the third anniversary of Gross’ arrest.

Asked directly if a Gross-for-spies swap might be possible during President Barack Obama’s next four years in the White House, the official replied, “No, I don’t think so.”

“We reject the notion of linkage,” added the official, who met with several journalists in Miami but asked for anonymity under State Department procedures. “There is no parallel between the two cases.”

Quote of the Week

For me, the solution to the Cuban problem is simple -- it's called democracy.
-- Manuel Barrueco, Cuban virtuoso classical guitarist, El Dia, 11/30/12

Tweets for Alan Gross

From Dana Perino: And from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL):

Repercussions Are Overdue

By Elliott Abrams of Council on Foreign Relations:

Thus far all the efforts by the United States government to free Mr. Gross have been unsuccessful. Those efforts are undermined every time an American tourist visits Cuba, there to play at the beach and deliver hard currency to the Castro regime. I regret that the Obama administration has not tightened up again on travel to Cuba in response to Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonment  and that Americans who know nothing about the treatment of their fellow citizen -- or worse are indifferent to it -- continue to visit Cuba. Until the regime begins to see more than words from the State Department’s spokesman, until they suffer some real harm from the treatment of Mr. Gross, it may be impossible to free him. Let us hope that conclusion is too pessimistic.

Three-Years Later: Time For Pressure

On December 3rd, 2009, American development worker Alan Gross was taken hostage by the Castro regime in Cuba.

Last week, in response to a letter by 44 U.S. Senators, the Castro regime admitted that Alan Gross is indeed a hostage and has set its ransom -- the release of the so-called Cuban Five.

Why does the Castro regime feel so empowered?

For a couple of reasons.

Because initially the Gross family's legal team urged the family to keep a low profile, thinking it could negotiate his release. (The family ended that representation earlier this year.)

Alan's wife, Judy, told the AP this week that the diplomatic strategy failed:

"Part of the reason Gross' case isn't better-known has to do with strategy. For two years after he was arrested, Judy Gross and her then-lawyer tried working quietly through diplomatic channels. They talked to reporters, but appearances were limited."

"The quiet, diplomatic way wasn't working," Judy Gross said.

Moreover, because the Castro regime has yet to feel any repercussions for this hostage-taking. 

As we wrote in The Wall Street Journal in September:

"The [Obama] Administration initially used diplomatic mechanisms to try to negotiate Mr. Gross's release. These included a high-profile visit to Havana in January 2011 by then-Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson.

Ostensibly this was for the Cuba Migration Talks, which are part of a process to ensure safe and legal migration from Cuba. But Ms. Jacobson was the highest-level official ever to represent the U.S. at the talks, and it was hoped she could intercede on behalf of Mr. Gross. Nothing happened.

Common sense suggests that at this point the Obama administration should have toughened its stance by making clear that there would be repercussions if Mr. Gross was not released. Instead, the administration began another round of easing sanctions the next week."

Hasn't the time come to ratchet-up pressure on the Castro regime?

From The State Department

From the U.S. Department of State:

Alan Gross Begins Fourth Year of Unjust Imprisonment

Tomorrow Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. He was arrested on December 3, 2009 and later given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply facilitating communications between Cuba’s Jewish community and the rest of the world.

Mr. Gross is a 63-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to underserved communities in more than 50 countries.

Since his arrest, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and suffers from severe degenerative arthritis that affects his mobility, and other health problems. His family is anxious to evaluate whether he is receiving appropriate medical treatment, something that can best be determined by having a doctor of his own choosing examine him.

We continue to ask the Cuban Government to grant Alan Gross’s request to travel to the United States to visit his 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, who is gravely ill. This is a humanitarian issue.

The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs.

Girl Knifed for Supporting Dissidents

Sunday, December 2, 2012
A 15-year old girl, Berenice Héctor González, suffered a knife attack for supporting the female pro-democracy movement, The Ladies in White.

According to Diario de Cuba, the attacker, Dailiana Planchez Torres, is the daughter of a senior Castro regime official in the town of Cienfuegos.

She had asked for Daliana to stop insulting The Ladies in White, of which her aunt, Belkis Felicia Jorrín Morfa, is a member.

As a result, Berenice was attacked and cut in the face, neck, breast and legs.  She received 66 stitches for her injuries.

The attacker remains free.

Which Castro Ordered the Murder of Americans?

Evidence suggests that General Raul Castro directly ordered MIG fighter jets to literally pulverize two small Cessna civilian planes over international waters in 1996, murdering four Americans.

The four murdered Americans were: Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, Jr.

In a audio recording obtained (just last year) from a closed-door meeting of Communist Party officials held on June 21, 1996, Raul himself accepted responsibility:

"I made it clear that it [the decision] had to be decentralized if it was going to be effective, and five generals were given the authority."

But apparently, that was while his brother Fidel was the dictator-in-chief.

Now, with Raul as the dictator-in-chief, the regime seems to want to shift the responsibility back to Fidel, who is conveniently in ill-health.

According to NBC News, Ricardo Alarcon, president of Castro's "Parliament" said this week in Havana that:

"The order, the decision (to shoot down the planes) came from the highest level. Fidel Castro himself had said that publicly, that he was responsible for that decision."

Meanwhile, a U.S. grand jury indictment in 2003 charged two MIG pilots, Lorenzo Alberto Perez-Perez and Francisco Perez-Perez, and their commanding officer, Ruben Martinez Puente, with murder.

And one of the so-called "Cuban Five", Gerardo Hernandez, was convicted -- and is currently serving a double life-sentence -- for conspiracy to commit murder in this case.

It was always argued that General Raul Castro should have also been indicted in this case, as Minister of Defense.

He knows that, and thus -- the new blame game.

But justice will prevail.