A Happy Hanukah for an American family

Alan Gross was released today from a Cuban prison where he was held for five years. Gross, an employee of USAID (United States Agency of International Development) was accused by the Cuban government of espionage for bringing telecommunication devices into Cuba and sentenced to 15 years.

According to Alan Gross himself, Pope Francis interceded between Obama and Raul Castro to facilitate his release, which concludes more than a year of secret negotiations between the two governments and indicates the beginning of a new relationship with Cuba. According to The White House there are ongoing talks on everything from easing travel and commerce restrictions to lifting the Cuban embargo, in place since John F Kennedy was President.

While everyone rejoices at Gross’s return to this country and his family, not everyone applauds Obamas’s new stand on the future of US/Cuba relations–he has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to reopen the American Embassy in Havana.

Marco Rubio, Republican Senator from Florida, called Obama “the worst negotiator in modern U.S. history” and considers the President’s move to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba as “naive and ignorant of the way the world works.” Along the same line, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and possible Presidential candidate in the next elections, said, “I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime.”

The issue of changing America’s policy toward Cuba is a heated topic among Cuban-Americans. While many side with Rubio and Bush, many in that community support Obama’s proposal, believing that lifting the embargo will help Cuba move toward democracy.

Today, I received an email from a man who fled Cuba and came to this country when he was only 8 yrs-old. Referring to the embargo, he said, “the law is antiquated…put in place half a century ago to destroy Fidel, time we reconsider. ” He echoed what Hilary Clinton had said of the embargo, “it’s been a terrible failure.”

The fact is that it’s hard to tell what will happen in Cuba if the embargo is lifted. Will the Castro regime continue its brutal treatment of those who oppose the government?

In the U.S., we have the freedom to express our different political opinions. This has not been the case in Cuba, a situation no none knows will change if the embargo is lifted and our diplomatic relations with Cuba is renewed.

How do you feel about Alan Gross’s release from prison? Do you think Cuba did not concede enough in these negotiations?

Do you believe lifting the embargo will enhance or worsen political freedom in Cuba?

11 thoughts on “A Happy Hanukah for an American family

  1. Excellent and timely post, Lorenzo. I’m glad that Alan Gross was released. I’ll leave it up to your Cuban-American friends to answer your other questions.

    It is a repressive regime.

  2. Lorenzo, I knew this day would come, surprised it took this long. From a Cuban-American point of view, I am left wondering what, if any, concessions the Castro Bros. have made. Are we still going to see the Ladies in White being beaten, arrested, and harassed by the government thugs? Are the Cuban people going to be given the right to a free press, free assembly and a multi-party political system? Cuba is a dead-beat country that owes billions to its creditors, is the US government going to lend that govt. money that will probably not be repaid? Since I don’t have the answers, it appears this deal is a win-win for the government of Cuba. I can just hear some say, “American tourists filling the streets of Havana surely will help speed up democratic reforms.”..please, countless tourists from democratic countries (Canada, Italy, Spain just to name a few) have been flocking to the island for years and nothing has changed politically. Unless the dictator in charge announces some concrete, solid reforms toward eliminating the one-party system, I don’t see much that benefits the Cuban people.

  3. Fernando, I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe that everyone on both sides of the issue want a democratic Cuba, but is that likely to happen if the embargo is lifted? I have my doubts. I’m concerned Raul is taking advantage of the situation and has not made the necessary concessions to guarantee a democracy in the island.

  4. LOren no te hago esperar. Nuestra historia hay que vivirla para conocerla y sentirla. De momento me alegro mucho que el Sr. Alan haya regresado a su Pais con vida despues de una tortuosa pesadilla. Creo que el embargo debe quitarse y que se cumpla lo establecido para buscar un futuro esperanzador a nuestra Patria herida.El Mundo necesita ya de actitudes sensatas y no pasionales. Es tiempo de cambios sustanciales donde prime la democracia y se respeten los derechos humanos. Lo demas hermano prefiero no opinar de momento, no tengo por que conocer algunas decisiones tomadas, ya que muchas personas han salido danadas en lo mas profundo.. Pero si creo que el unico camino existente para nuestro Pais es una reconciliacion seria de ambas partes. Sera el regimen cubano capaz de hacerlo?……De momento me agrada que el Vaticano este involucrado en el asunto. Aprecio mucho lo que siempre haces y en el momento que lo haces,.donde todos tus amigos de otras nacionalidades pueden conocer un poco de la tragedia nuestro Pais. Un abrazo .

  5. Marielena, gracias por tus comentarios. Sería bueno soñar que algún día Cuba será libre y democrática. Pero como tu dices, será Cuba capaz de tomar esta reconciliación con seriedad? Han sido tantos los que han sufrido en Cuba porque sus derechos humanos no han sido respetados. Espero que estas violaciones a la democracia paren por completo.

  6. Lorenzo, I was wondering what your take was on this current event. It certainly is a positive experience for Alan Gross and his family but one has to wonder the Cuban regime will be emboldened to continue its repression or be willing to take steps toward a democracy. Thanks for an excellent post and discussion.

    1. Kathy, thanks for stopping by. This is a positive exoerience, a miracle, really, for Alan Gross and his family. As you mentioned, though, it’s hard to know if Cuba will continue its repression or move toward a democratic society. I’m praying for the latter.

  7. I almost vomited when I saw a photo of Alan Gross, just after arriving, sitting in his lawyer’s office in DC, and in the background hanging from a wall, was a portrait of Che.

  8. Compare Alan Gross as he came out of those horrible Cuban prissons, thin, w/o teeth, looking horrible, now on the other hand look at the ones
    that were freed by this administration to Cuba, looking healthy, smiles, and a pregnant wife. This president I strongly believe is a lousy negotiator and give every thing away with nothing in return. My hunble opinion.

  9. Carlos, I agree there’s no comparison between the prisoners we released, healthy looking, and Alan Gross and others released by Castro. They looked malnourished. This shows the difference between the two countries.

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