As I posted last month, Obama eased travel & money restrictions to Cuba in exchange for nothing. The news was announced on late afternoon Friday January 14, and easing travel restrictions to Cuba, and allowing U.S. citizens to send up to $2,000 a year to help Cubans support religious institutions or run small businesses.
In an economic environment where the dictatorship fired from state jobs between 500,000 to 1,300,000 people, the island is broke. The fired workers supposedly will be allowed to become self-employed in 178 trades (strictly defined in a “Draft Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy” issued by the dictatorship), even when currently there is no private sector in Cuba, and whatever private sector there may trie to exist, will do so at the whims of the dictatorship.
The Communist regime currently is being propped up by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Chavez in turn has become a de-facto dictator and must spend lavishly in his own country in order to keep himself in power. Were Chavez to reduce his aid to Cuba,
Cuban social services, the flagships of the Revolution, cannot be sustained under the current economic model and can only remain if all the reforms recommended by President Raúl Castro are enforced.
What this amounts to is to prolong the Cuban Communist dictatorship to live for yet another day.
What did the US get in exchange? Nothing.
The Cuban government has been holding US citizen Alan P. Gross prisoner for since December 2009 without charge on suspicion of spying. Gross has now been formally charged with spying
Prosecutors are charging a jailed American contractor with “acts against the integrity and independence” of Cuba and requesting a 20-year jail term, state news media reported Friday, dimming hopes the 60-year-old Maryland native would be allowed to go home soon.
According to the AP article,
Gross was working for a firm contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested Dec. 3, 2009, and sent to Havana’s high-security Villa Marista prison. The project Gross worked with was part of a $40 million-a-year USAID program to promote democracy and political change on the island.
U.S. officials have defended the program and said they will never give up pushing for democracy and openness in Cuba. Detractors of the Cuba project have criticized it as ineffective and counterproductive.
While Gross claims to have been working with the 1,500-strong Jewish community, the leaders of the island’s two main Jewish groups have told The Associated Press they had nothing to do with him.
Juan Tamayo, writing at the Miami Herald (via Babalu) reports
Then on Friday, Gross’ Washington lawyer, Peter J. Kahn, issued a surprisingly affirmative reaction to the Cuban announcement, saying that “after 14 months in a Cuban prison without charge, the fact that Alan Gross’ case is now moving forward is a positive development.
“We respectfully urge the Cuban authorities to free Alan immediately for time served,” Kahn added, without making any mention of the 20-year sentence.
Rather than seek Gross’s release and the freedom of Cuban political prisoners as a condition to the easing of travel and money restrictions, the Obama administration granted huge concessions for nothing.
Now Gross is still in prison, will be undergoing trial and may spend the rest of his life (he’s 61 years old) in a Cuban jail.
Smart diplomacy? Thanks for nothing!
Cross-posted at The Green Room