By Frank Calzon
May 15, 2010
It is difficult to be against artistic exchanges with any country,
including Castro's Cuba, no matter how repressive and anti-American
their regimes might be. Yet, conducting business with them as if they
were normal governments emboldens them in their repression at home and
hostility toward America abroad.
Take the case of USAID employee Alan Gross, who gave cell phones and a
lap top to Cubans. He has been in the hands of Havana's political police
since Dec. 5. His imprisonment is an obvious attempt by the Castro
brothers to blackmail the United States.
He has yet to be formally charged, and he is no more a spy than the
thousands of foreigners who travel to Cuba every year to engage in
unspeakable activities such as purchasing sexual favors from young
Cubans, including children, without incurring the wrath of the regime.
This is not the first time that foreigners talking with Cuban dissidents
have gotten in trouble. Europeans, including journalists and members of
the European Parliament, have been expelled. In one instance, two Czechs
— one of whom was a member of parliament and a former finance minister
in post-Communist Czechoslovakia — were similarly accused and spent not
quite four weeks in prison. Gross has been at state security
headquarters for five months and counting.
Imprisoning Americans is the least of Havana's crimes. On Feb. 24, 1996,
two small Brothers to the Rescue aircraft searched for refugees over
international waters. Although they were flying in international
airspace, they provided their coordinates to Havana's air-traffic
controllers. They were blown out of the sky by Cuban MIGs. Raul Castro,
then Cuba's minister of armed forces, gave medals to the murderers.
Secretary of State Madeline Albright denounced their cowardice, and the
White House said that the United States would not rest until the killers
would be punished.
Fourteen years later — three presidents have been at the White House —
and the families of the murdered Americans and one legal U.S. resident
still wait for the killers' names to be sent to Interpol, so that if
they ever travel abroad, they would be brought to justice. No one in
Washington can explain why the referral to Interpol has yet to be made
or why, while an innocent American remains in Castro's jails, Cuban
"official" artists tour the United States where they are propagandists
of the regime while earning thousands of dollars, a big chunk of which
goes to the regime.
Credit it to Washington's "aggressive niceness" toward Havana, a policy
begun in the last phase of the previous administration and which has yet
to bear fruit. Fidel Castro said recently that Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton was a hypocrite. It does not bode well for Alan Gross'
Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba. Reach
him at email@example.com.