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November 8, 2011

State Dept. nominee says she'll prioritize Gross case

President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead U.S. foreign policy in Latin America told lawmakers Tuesday that she would prioritize the release of a Maryland man serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for crimes against the state.

Alan Gross, who was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested in December 2009, has maintained his innocence. The Baltimore native, a veteran international development worker, was helping Cuba’s small Jewish community develop an intranet and improve access to the Internet.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised Gross’s case during the confirmation hearing Tuesday for Roberta Jacobson to serve as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“For nearly two years, the Cuban government has held Alan Gross under horrible terms and conditions, violating his human rights and twisting the rule of law to suit their own needs,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Mr. Gross should be immediately and unconditionally released so he can return home. The health and humanitarian needs of he and his family are paramount.”

Cardin asked Jacobson to prioritize Gross’s release. She agreed.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:54 PM | | Comments (2)


Alan Gross met with his rabbi recently and told the rabbi that he would like to be traded for the Cuban Five.

Israel traded a thousand Palestinians for one Israeli soldier, then traded twenty-five Egyptians for one Israeli-American.

Why can't Washington trade five Cubans for one Jewish American?

Here's what Gross's rabbi has to say:


What a disgrace that the confirmation of an important State Department official apparently depends on denying the reality of Alan Gross's situation.

From Cuba's perspective he is just as guilty of violating its laws as from the US perspective the Cuban 5 are guilty of violating ours.

We can continue this charade of mutual self-righteousness for many years, or both sides can seriously seek a political solution. If Israel can agree with Hamas to exchange Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit for 1,027 Palestinians, including 315 serving life sentences, why is it so hard for the Obama Administration to release five Cuban intelligence operatives, one imprisoned for life, in return for USAID agent Alan Gross?

The only way the Obama Administration can escape this trap is by decisively ending the dysfunctional non-relationship with Cuba. Senators Menendez and Rubio had counterparts when Nixon and Carter opened the door to China and Clinton normalized with Vietnam, but they became irrelevant once the step was taken.

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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