On Sunday, American development worker, Alan Gross, conducted an interview with CBS's 60 Minutes about his five-year ordeal as a prisoner of the Castro regime in Cuba.
The interview confirmed many things we've long-known, while (hopefully) providing some lessons going forward -- as current events in Cuba go from bad to worse.
What we learned (knew) from Gross' interview:
- How Gross' imprisonment was indeed a hostage-taking. The segment's opening line says it all, "the new opening to Cuba would not have happened without an old-fashioned swap." Indeed, Alan Gross was taken hostage in order to procure a series of concessions from the Obama Administration, including the release of Cuban spies convicted by U.S. federal courts in a conspiracy to murder Americans. This was also admitted by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and his aide, Tim Rieser, who (nevertheless) worked incessantly to pay Castro's ransom.
- How Gross was mistreated by the Castro regime. As Gross himself recounts, "they threatened to hang me. They threatened to pull out my fingernails. They said I'd never see the light of day." He was subjected to sensory deprivation, held in squalid cells, drugged and malnourished -- losing up to 110 lbs. This happens in Cuba all of the time. This is not a "benevolent" dictatorship. Yet, these are the new business partners the Obama Administration and some unscrupulous lobbyists seek.
- How the Castro regime knew it could coerce President Obama. In the interview, Gross explains how the equipment he took to the island was in plain sight of Cuban customs. It was also not the first time Gross traveled to the island to help the Cuban people with uncensored Internet connectivity. Moreover, there have been others like Gross. He was taken hostage during the first year of the Obama Administration because the Castro regime knew it could coerce the new President, who kept sending all of the wrong signals by streamlining democracy programs and further unconditionally easing sanctions. Thus, it waited patiently to succeed. If the Obama Administration would have made it clear that the taking of an American hostage would be met with severe consequences, Gross would have been home long ago.
- How Obama's new policy stems from coercion. Any policy that stems from coercion is inherently counter-productive. The current repression and refugee crisis taking place in Cuba -- along with the Castro regime's utter unwillingness to "cede one millimeter" -- is proof of this. Such a policy has only empowered the Castro regime.
- How Castro's American victims have been denied justice. The 60 Minutes interview -- along with the media in general -- continues to trivialize the "spy swap." The fact remains that the Cuban spies released were imprisoned in the United States for serious crimes, including a conspiracy to murder Americans. We should never forget the families of those young Americans, the pilots of the Brothers to the Rescue planes disintegrated in international waters by Cuban MIGs, who were murdered by the Castro regime with the help of those Cuban spies. The lesson learned by rogue regimes has been that they can murder Americans, have U.S. courts and juries duly convict those involved -- and see justice aborted by a stroke of the President's pen.
What the Obama Administration should learn from the Gross experience:
- How regimes that coerce concessions are never satisfied. As we've seen throughout the year, no matter how many unconditional concessions and impunity President Obama grants the Castro regime, it simply emboldens it to want more. Repression, refugees and rogue activities are on the rise. That is the result of Obama's coerced policy.
What Gross should consider going forward:
- Respect those who choose solidarity with the oppressed. As Gross himself recognizes in the interview, to receive and impart information is a universal human right. It's protected by international law. Efforts by the United States to support that fundamental right in closed societies throughout the world are not "cockamamie programs." There are extraordinarily courageous people -- who like himself at one time -- apply to administer these programs. They deserve our ongoing support, respect and admiration.
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