Waiting for Cuba

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryThe debate has gotten more vicious and more public on letting Americans travel to and from Cuba legally. Recently, the famous singer Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z went on a private vacation to Cuba. They had received travel permission from the U.S. State Department to do so. Democrats on one side say that travel should be allowed for all Americans. Republicans, on the other hand, believe that travel should still not be allowed to Cuba. Lost in this whole debate is the fate of one man who remains a political prisoner in Cuba—Alan Gross. Gross, a USAID worker, had gone to Cuba to help connect Havana’s small Jewish community to the Internet. This is something the Cuban government did not like, and so it threw Gross into prison and sentenced him in a kangaroo trial to 15 years. The United Nations ruled that Cuba’s detention of Alan Gross is a clear violation of the UN charter, and that he should immediately be released.

As long as Gross is in a Cuban prison, the U.S. government cannot move to improve relations with Cuba. There are some Democrats who argue that we should go on with improving relations with Cuba and also invest in Cuba regardless of the fact that Gross is in jail. In my view, this would be sending the Cuban government the wrong message. It would be saying that yes it is O.K. to keep Gross in prison and reward Havana for bad behavior. The U.S. government is not going to reward North Korea for bad behavior, so why should it reward Cuba? Some Cuba watchers say that the U.S. embargo and the U.S. government holding the five Cuban spies is why Havana is holding Alan Gross. These Cuba watchers say that we should first get rid of the embargo and then give back to Havana the spies.

But in my view this is again awarding bad behavior. The five Cuban spies were convicted of espionage for trying to infiltrate Cuban-American groups and also U.S. military installations. While I also believe that the U.S. economic embargo should be scrapped, doing it under the dictation of Havana is totally unacceptable. They are using Alan Gross as a hostage to gain concessions they are not entitled to. The U.S. government should not negotiate under any such threat even if the U.S. government may not be correct about the embargo. In my view, the U.S. government should scrap the embargo against Cuba, should allow any and all Americans to be able to go to and from Cuba without restrictions, and that all diplomatic relations should be established with Cuba just as the U.S. government has full diplomatic relations with China, Vietnam and Laos. But none of this should happen until Alan Gross is unconditionally released. In my view, the Cuban government has shot itself in the foot, and that nothing should move forward until Havana lets Alan Gross go home.

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