The short and simple answer: a country of origin with normalized relations with Cuba.
Spain has open economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba. It also actively and directly supports opposition leaders and civil society in the island. It is part of the EU’s Common Position on Cuba which has a stated objective ”to encourage a process of transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people”. When Cuba released 52 political prisoners in 2010 that had been held captive since 2003, it was Spanish diplomats working with the Catholic Church who brokered the deal.
So it’s no great surprise that when it came time to negotiate the release of a Angel Carromero -a Spanish ruling party official sentenced to four years for the negligent homicide of Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero – the Spanish are actually making some headway. From the EFE news agency (my translation):
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, said today in an interview with Efe that the request to transfer Angel Carromero to Spanish territory “will be duly considered,” based on bilateral agreements of both countries in this area.
Rodriguez noted however that Carromero “was no mere tourist” as are tens of thousands of Spanish who visit Cuba, but his trip “was a political operation organized by groups that want to harm his country’s relations with Spain.”
“Political interests cause spurious circumstances cloud the bilateral atmosphere,” he said.
The Cuban foreign minister also stressed that the Spanish Government has recognized the “flawless” trial in the case Carromero and said that “it is in the best interest of both governments to continue a slow and respectful bilateral relationship that is not subject to the sectors who want to torpedo it.”
See that? It’s called diplomacy. The Spanish stroke some egos with their “flawless” talk and are actually making progress toward getting Carromero on a flight back to la madre patria. There’s already a precedent for this. Last January, the Spanish secured the release of Sebastián Martínez Ferraté – who received a 7 year sentence for corruption of minors and bribery of officials – after he serving 17 months in prison. I have little doubt they’ll also get Carromero out.
Meanwhile, here’s the state of our online chat with the Cuban government to release Alan Gross, via the Miami Herald:
“An essential element in this agenda,” the foreign minister added, is the release of the five Cubans convicted of spying-related charges in Miami. Havana claims they were trying to avert possible terrorist acts by exiles.
“An act of justice, or at least a humanitarian solution, will arouse the gratitude of my people and a response by our government,” Rodriguez noted, not mentioning Gross by name but clearly indicating a possible swap.
The U.S. State Department said it had no comment on the Rodriguez proposal.
Of course not. They were too busy defending their Cuba policy after the UN voted for the 21st year in a row, by a margin of 188-3, that the Embargo is a “crappy policy” (do click on the link, it’s a kicker).
What’s the lesson here? The Spanish are using diplomatic relations to get their guy released. We use our guy’s release as a precondition to diplomatic relations. Ours is a backward-ass policy and theirs isn’t. Even Gross’s wife has recognized her husband is a pawn in a stupid game.
Once again, because I can’t get over how moronic this is: one gets 4 years for accidentally killing two Cuban citizens, the other gets 15 years for installing a small telecom network. One will likely be released, the other will likely continue to waste away in jail. The only significant difference between the two cases…DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS.
When we wanted China to release political activist Chen Guangcheng, we sent Hillary. And surprise, it worked! We didn’t even have to interrupt trade with the largest communist country in the planet.
Cuba is no more special than China, and it behooves us – if for no other reason, so we can cease looking like a bunch of lunkheads in the eyes of the world – to stop treating as if it were.
Can we please stop this lunacy and bring Alan home?
**UPDATE: Alan Gross’s attorney has just filed suit against U.S. government and the contractor that hired him to work in Cuba for $60 million, on the grounds that they didn’t “adequately train him or disclose risks he was undertaking by doing development work on the Communist island.” So now even Alan Gross is crapping on U.S.-Cuba policy, essentially saying USAID programs are poorly managed and expose americans to dangerous conditions. I hope he takes them to the cleaners.