This last week was a big week for the US+Cuba tango, but that’s just it, It was a familiar dance, no real results. I suppose extending goodwill and “friendship building” is a little bit of a healing process so I can’t knock it. Raul mentioned this week that Carter was the best US President. Meanwhile, on my visit to Cuba last week, I asked a few locals about Carter and the general response from residents is that they felt if there was ever an era the embargo could’ve have been dropped, it would have been under Carter.
Needless to say, the Cubanos love the big ‘ol softie. He showed up to town wearing a white guayabera. One of the taxi drivers taking me home one night in Havana last week mentioned that he had just left the Floridita restaurant where it was announced Carter would swing through for a drink and a chummy moment with Cuba’s head of State.
So what was Carter doing in Cuba? I don’t believe it was officially announced, but presumably, it was to ask the Cuban government to release Alan Gross from prison. Alan is an American contractor who’s been jailed there on charges of spying. Alan’s crime? Distributing laptops to activists in Cuba. Note to self: Careful passing out a couple of Apple Tablets in Cuba. If you think that is a ridiculous thought, you should also know that Alan, a 60 year old man has already lost 80 pounds in the Cuba prison. He has served 16 months so far and is still still currently held without further notice.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keeps announcing to the press that the Obama Administration is working “every single day through every channel” to get Gross back to the United States. According to the Cuba government, Alan was distributing communication devices, supposedly on behalf of a USAID program, while visiting the country on a tourist visa. Alan, who’s health is seriously deteriorating in prison, is said to be “not well”. Sad story. Its especially sad when computers can be seen as “disruptive” and dangerous to a government.
Final result: President Jimmy Carter left Cuba after a three-day stint without American Alan Gross. He stood before a Cuban delegation and spoke his mind before dipping out of town. Carter’s exact words:
“I think that Alan Gross should be released, because he’s innocent of any serious crime. And I believe that the Cuban Five should be released, because they have served 12 years in prison now, and the original circumstances of their trial were considered to be doubtful. In addition to those things, my own preference would be to see the Helms-Burton law completely repealed. I think it was a serious mistake when it was passed and signed by President Clinton.”
(Note: The Cuban Five Carter speaks of are the famous 5 Cuban spy’s captured and arrested in Miami. The Helms-Burton Act is another Embargo enforcing law. Both are truthfully outdated ideas that need to be seriously readdressed by the US administration).
Although no immediate results occurred, Carter’s visit was noteworthy being that he is the 2nd American President to visit Cuba since 1928. The purpose was to continue promoting improved relations between the countries. But alas, even a 6 hour meeting with President Raul Castro couldn’t bring Gross home.
Pretty much everybody wants to see Alan go home. Lets hope Jimmy Carter charmed Raul enough over some mojitos to make that happen very soon.