Breaking the status quo

Finally, some fresh thinking on Alan Gross debate

December 28th, 2012 | Posted by William Vidal in Cuba policy | Uncategorized | US Politics

Kudos to Ricardo Herrero over at the Cuba Study Group for introducing some fresh thinking into the Alan Gross debate. Don’t miss his excellent article on The Huffington Post, in which he denounces those who wish to continue playing Grossball and brings to light three unexplored approaches to bringing Alan back home:

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So what can be done? There are three opportunities for securing Gross’ release that could also help improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba:

1. Introduce alternative terms to the negotiation. The Cubans have dictated the terms of the negotiation from day one, and hardliners in the U.S. government have seemingly been too happy to play along. However, just because the U.S. won’t agree to the spy swap doesn’t mean negotiations should stop there. U.S. sanctions on Cuba remain a decades-old morass of congressional actions, presidential directives and executive orders, resulting in an entrenched and inflexible foreign policy that is as incoherent as it is ineffective. There are plenty of outdated sanctions on the books that the United States could repeal or amend in exchange for Gross’ release.

2. Pursue Gross’ release and economic engagement concurrently. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced a shift in the focus of U.S.-Cuba policy toward empowering civil society and supporting independent economic activity. If Cuba’s burgeoning private sector is to grow into a viable alternative to the Island’s top-down economic system, it will need a deeper economic relationship with the American private sector. By conditioning all further efforts to engage with the Cuban people on Gross’ release, we are playing by the rules of those who benefit from the prolonged confrontation and mutual isolation between the two countries. Denying these private individuals an economic relationship with the United States only serves to further delay the kind of changes that policies like Helms-Burton were ill-designed to accelerate.

3. Look to the Angel Carromero case as a model. We don’t know what deal the Spanish government struck with the Cubans to secure the release of Angel Carromero, the Popular Party’s pro-democracy activist who was charged with the negligent homicide of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero and will now serve his sentence in Spain. What is clear is that through direct diplomacy, the Spanish have been far more successful at liberating political prisoners, democracy advocates, and businessmen from Cuban jails than any other country, all while promoting democracy inside the island through direct support to pro-democracy groups. On the other hand, our confrontational approach has only perpetuated the conflict without any progress to show for it.

Earlier in the article, Herrero mentions that “like all things Cuba-related, the debate over Gross’ incarceration has since devolved into an ideological three-ring circus where finding a solution has become a secondary objective behind not appearing to be making concessions to the enemy.”

As if on queue, enter Babalooser Alberto De La Cruz, who more than lives up to Herrero’s claim, not by offering a compelling counterargument to the Huffington article (this is Babalu after all), but by attacking Herrero’s employer and resorting to stale talking points (make that one stupid talking point repeated three times) that are hard to take seriously:

Although each is slightly different in its approach, they are all based on a single premise that is nothing short of pure genius and will surely work wonders in winning the release of Alan Gross.Here is what the three plans boil down to:

Plan 1: Reward the Castro dictatorship for their lawless act

Plan 2: Reward the Castro dictatorship for their lawless act

Plan 3: Reward the Castro dictatorship for their lawless act

Sigh. Anyway, I got nothing else to say other than I’m glad Mr. Herrero lives in Miami. Too often, the more sensible voices on Cuba policy come from outside our fair city. Hopefully this will inspire others down here to speak out in favor of more common sense solutions to the US-Cuba conflict and help sideline the circus clowns whose only purpose in life is to prolong it.

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