From the Miami Herald, citing a recent report published in Foreign Affairs on John Kerry’s secret talks with Cuba to free Alan Gross:
[Foreign Affairs correspondent R.M.] Schneiderman wrote that in early 2010, the State Department and USAID asked Armstrong, who had long criticized the programs as inefficient and wasteful, to help them make the programs less offensive to Havana — hoping Cuba might then free Gross.
And that summer, “at State’s behest,” Armstrong began meeting with officials at the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington to tell them about the changes that were being made to the programs, Schneiderman wrote.
“We said, ‘Look, message received,’ ” he quoted Armstrong as saying. “‘These [programs] are stupid. We’re cleaning them up. Just give us time, because politically we can’t kill them.’” The Cubans seemed appreciative. “We asked them, ‘Will this help you release Alan Gross?’ ” Armstrong went on. “And the answer was yes.’”
But Sen. Bob Menendez, a powerful Cuban American Democrat from New Jersey, stepped in to defend the programs in the spring of 2011 and persuaded the White House to roll back most of the changes, Schneiderman wrote.
Havana grew chary at the same time, he added, as Raúl Castro faced domestic opposition to his economic reforms and a U.S. jury acquitted Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile blamed for several Havana bombings, of lying to U.S. immigration officials.
“Mired in mistrust and miscalculation, each side seemed to be waiting for the other to blink,” he wrote. “Eventually, however, the United States appeared to step back from an opportunity to free Gross from jail and strike a blow against the antiquated politics of the Cold War … The Cuban-American lobby had won.”