One High Profile Case and One Ignored Case

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The two cases of former U.S. Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi and former U.S. AID worker Alan Gross could not be a more classic example of how one case has become a cause celebration and the other almost virtually ignored. The only facts we have for Tahmooressi is that he was stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border with three firearms. Bringing in three firearms, even if accidentally, is still illegal in Mexico. For this he has been imprisoned ever since. Alan Gross was imprisoned by the Cuban government for bringing in communications equipment. Both have been held in foreign jails ever since.

This is where the similarities end. Tahmooressi has been held in El Hongo, a Mexican federal prison in Tecate—a prison that is accredited by the American Correctional Association and he has been given a private cell. Tahmorressi’s rights under Mexican law have been respected. Many Republicans and conservatives have taken up his “cause” so that there is a good deal of publicity out there about him. One cannot say even remotely the same of Gross. He has been held in a crowded cell with three other Cuban prisoners and is only allowed “out” in a prison courtyard where the only outside exposure is through a barbwire opening in the ceiling. Despite the best efforts of Gross’s family, the U.S. government has virtually ignored them.

The Mexican government is well aware of the sensitivity of the case, and there have been behind-the-scenes attempts at resolving this issue. The Cuban government has only one demand, and that is three of its spies for Alan Gross. But those Cuban spies are guilty of murder, and Alan Gross is a prisoner of conscience being used as a political hostage. What could be more disgusting? Tahmooressi has a capable lawyer named Fernando Benitez who will do whatever he can to get the charges against Tahmooressi dismissed. I hope that will be the case since Tahmooressi desperately needs to return to the United States to get treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service in Afghanistan.

The Cuban government can care less what happens to Mr. Gross. We have to keep in mind that the Cuban judiciary is nothing more than an extension of the Communist Party of Cuba. It has no independence, and therefore there is no way to appeal a wrongful verdict. Because Gross is no closer to getting out of a Cuban prison than he was four years before, it seems that he has resolved to “end his life.” If this is true, then the U.S. government is running out of time to save him. The U.S. government should try and do something to save Alan Gross, and should apply pressure to Cuba to release him unconditionally. As for Tahmooressi, let us see where the wheels of justice go, but I feel he should go back home.

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