A Cuban court on Saturday found U.S. contractor Alan Gross guilty of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a verdict that is sure to have sweeping repercussions for already-sour relations between Washington and Havana.
The court said prosecutors had proved their case that Gross, 61, was working on a “subversive” program paid for by the United States that aimed to bring down Cuba’s revolutionary system. Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence.
The Maryland native was arrested in December 2009 while on a USAID backed democracy-building project. The U.S. government and Gross’s family say he was working to improve Internet access for the island’s Jewish community, and should be released.
The harsh sentence handed down for Gross is no doubt a bold message sent to the Obama administration by the Cuban dictatorship to either pay up or suffer the consequences. In essence, it is no different than the messages sent by other criminal organizations who cut off a finger of a hostage and mail it to their family members. The Castro dictatorship does not fear the Obama administration, nor have they been given any reason to fear them. And while the U.S. government continues to wait for the Castro Mafia to “do the right thing” and refusing to deal with them from a position of strength, that Mafia will continue to challenge and embarrass the U.S. before the entire world.
In the meantime, Alan Gross and his family will continue to suffer the brutality of the Castro regime, ultimately paying the price for the weakness and ineptitude of the Obama White House and State Department.