Hunger strike in Cuba
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    The plight of Alan Gross

    Posted on Thursday, 05.08.14

    The plight of Alan Gross
    BY BASILIO GUZMAN
    CUBACENTER.ORG

    I sympathize with the plight of Alan Gross, a USAID contractor unjustly
    sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. Some reports have said he is,
    or was, waging a hunger strike to protest his confinement; other reports
    say he is “fasting.” I, too, was once a political prisoner in Cuba.

    Gross has been quoted saying his jailers treat him inhumanely.
    Mistreatment of political captives is common in Cuba. During my 22 years
    in prison, I witnessed severe abuse, including the outright killing of
    fellow political prisoners, and was denied visits or letters for years.

    Hunger strikes are serious matters. I have seen people lose their minds.
    I know of cases when people became invalids near the end of lengthy
    hunger strikes and cases when guards refused water to a dying prisoner.

    When Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and
    once governor of New Mexico, traveled to Cuba with hopes of gaining the
    release of Gross, he was not even permitted to see him. Upon leaving
    Cuba, Richardson described Gross as a “hostage” being held to obtain the
    release of convicted Cuban spies in American prisons.

    Alan Gross, an American Jew, has been in prison for more than four
    years. He has lost more than 100 pounds. While he was charged with
    spying, the only allegation made against him was that he had given a
    laptop and a satellite telephone to a group of Cuban Jews. That wasn’t a
    known crime.

    Only a regime afraid of its people denies them access to the Internet.
    Yet Havana continues to use Gross to extort from the Obama
    administration the release of convicted Cuban spies. There is no moral
    equivalency between the Castro brothers, who deny all human rights, and
    President Obama, who seeks to help people. It is disturbing that Gross’
    lawyer, Scott Gilbert, seems to be trying to invent one.

    Nothing that Gross says while under the control of Cuban intelligence
    should be accepted as fact. He is not free to express his opinions. One
    only needs to talk to a former American POWs in Vietnam to know and
    understand what happens to someone held in a cell for 23 hours a day for
    months or held with inmates who are likely to be cooperating with
    authorities to obtain a little more food and other “rewards.”

    It is sad that Gilbert, is saying that a USAID program designed to
    overcome Cuba’s censorship has “put Gross’ life in greater jeopardy.”
    What Gilbert is saying, in effect, is: President Obama should accede to
    the Castros’ extortion. If previous American administrations had yielded
    to demands to halt their democracy programs, Radio Free Europe and Radio
    Liberty would not have existed and Poland’s Solidarity movement would
    never have gained U.S. support.

    While in prison, many Cuban political prisoners become critical of the
    United States and of the Cuban-American community because they are
    constantly fed misinformation by the regime.

    When I was finally released to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who went to Cuba
    and didn’t take Fidel Castro’s “No” for an answer, I discovered hundreds
    of people had been working to free us.

    Upon arriving at Dulles International Airport, I was embraced by many
    Cuban exiles and by dedicated Amnesty International volunteers who had
    worked specifically on my case. Some time later, I was lucky to marry
    one of them.

    Once Gross is free, he will learn about President Obama’s many efforts.
    He will learn about the many other appeals from world leaders and the
    work done on his behalf by human-rights organizations and American Jews.

    It says a lot about this country’s ideals that when a Cuban spy serving
    his sentence in a halfway house sought permission to visit his ailing
    mother in Cuba, Washington said, “Yes.” When Alan Gross made a similar
    request, Raúl Castro said, “No.” I don’t have any doubt that, if the
    Cuban spy had not been permitted to go to Cuba, President Obama would
    have been blamed, as he is now being blamed for Raúl Castro’s decision
    not set Gross free.

    In a few days, millions will be celebrating Mother’s Day. I hope that
    thousands of Americans — Jews and Gentiles — will send a Mother’s Day
    card addressed to Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, Havana, Cuba. Ask him to
    release Alan Gross to return home for good to the embrace of his mother.

    Basilio Guzman is a former political prisoner who spent 22 years in a
    Cuban jail. He lives in Arlington, Va.

    Source: “The plight of Alan Gross – Other Views – MiamiHerald.com” –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/08/4105886/the-plight-of-alan-gross.html#storylink=misearch

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