Now that President Obama has ended the isolation of Cuba, not only has he freed an imprisoned Cuban from a Cuban prison by way of a prisoner swap, he has also freed an American businessman, Alan Gross, 65, who had served five years of a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison.
As our president is again lambasted by the absolutely useless Republican Party, it is important to remember what Mr. Gross told President Obama before his release:
“In my last letter to President Obama, I said despite my five years of captivity I said I would not want to trade places with him.”
As The Hill reported, “Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development worker imprisoned when it was discovered he helped to set up Internet access for a small Jewish community on the communist nation.”
Gross’s health had deteriorated in recent months, and his family reported he had lost more than 100 pounds, five teeth, and sight in his right eye. A lawyer for the family had warned that Gross could undertake a fatal hunger strike if he was not released soon.
In a statement issued at 12:01 E.S.T. today, the president made clear that the release of Mr. Gross was essential to moving forward with improved relations:
While I have been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way — the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years. Over many months, my administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship. His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.
Today, Alan returned home — reunited with his family at long last. Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds. Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba, and who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades. This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today, as well as other spies in the United States. This man is now safely on our shores.
Earlier this month, Mr. Gross’ wife said that her husband had “paid a terrible price for serving his country and community.”
Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end. After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done. It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now; otherwise it will be too late.
If Republicans had had their way, Mr. Gross would still be in a Cuban prison. It cannot sit well with Republicans that it is President Obama that Mr. Gross thanked on his return to American soil. But as event today have shown, and as President Obama has been repeatedly showing not only the American people, but the world, America will continue moving forward – with or without Republicans.