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U.S. rice trade with Cuba entangled with jailed American

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Trade relations between the United States and Cuba have chilled considerably since Cuba put American Alan Gross in jail.

The Obama Administration will not resume talks to improve relations between the two countries until Gross is returned.

Meanwhile trade between the two countries, including U.S. rice exports to Cuba, have slowed to a trickle.

Exporting U.S. rice to Cuba just can’t seem to get going. After importing U.S. rice in record numbers a few years back, Cuba’s imports of U.S. rice have now slowed to a trickle. Relations between the two countries have chilled considerably.

Unfortunately, this is not likely to change until something is done about an American named Alan Gross, who has been sitting in a Cuban jail for three years.

In November 2009, Gross was an American international development expert working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Gross was hired to implement a risky plan in Cuba, setting up broadband technology for small numbers of Jewish citizens in Havana. The technology provided the Cubans with unfiltered access to the Internet.

Cuba’s security forces considered this a serious crime and on Dec. 3, 2009 arrested Gross at Havana’s Jose Marti Airport as he was attempting to leave Cuba. He was ultimately convicted for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.”

The 63-year old is now beginning the fourth year of a 15-year prison sentence, and apparently, Cuba has no intention of letting him go. In fact, they’ve recently used Gross as a bargaining chip for five Cuban spies convicted in Miami of various crimes including conspiring to shoot down two civilian airplanes in 1996, which killed four south Florida men.

In rejecting the offer, U.S. officials noted that there is “no parallel” between Gross and the jailed Cubans. I agree. In most countries, giving people access to information is not only a right, but perfectly legal, and murder is a crime.

The Obama Administration has stated that further talks on improving Cuba and U.S. relations, including trade matters, will not resume until Gross is returned.

While a trade embargo might seem like a good way to bully outlaw states like Cuba into changing their ways, it’s far from a precision shot because it also punishes Cuban citizens who are in desperate need of goods and services, as well as U.S. producers who need their consumerism.

And I’m sure the Obama Administration is not ignoring the fact that free trade can give birth to democratic principles too.

When trade creates capital, economies prosper. When economies prosper, people have the power to change their lives. When people have that kind of power, they can topple despots. Despots, on the other hand, don’t necessarily mind if their people remain ignorant and oppressed.

So do we push trade at all costs hoping that it will open the world for democracy? Or withhold it for a similar change? It’s an interesting and agonizing dilemma.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Milton Sanchez-Parodi (not verified)
on Feb 9, 2013

Alan Gross' actions are illegal in most countries. He was under contract form the US government to set up a parallel internet outside national laws. No country would be allowed to do such here. We have a policy of regime change in Cuba since 1959 and have invaded that country. We continue a policy of economic pressure against Cuba and spend over 40 million dollars a year funding media propaganda as well as "dissidents" in Cuba. No sovereign nation would allow another to carry on such activity. We would not.

The five Cuban prisoners in the US have absolutely nothing to do with murder, even three judges of the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed their trial was tainted, and the prosecution agreed no real evidence existed to murder or actual spying against the US. These Cubans were in Miami infiltrating terrorist organizations at a time when bombs were going off in Havana at tourist places and in hotels. These terrorist activities have been traced back to sponsors in Miami , FL and Union CIty, NJ. Terrorism, Mr. Robinson, is a crime against humanity, yet we are holding the anti-terrorist and protecting the terrorist who are free in Miami and Union City. That is the gist of US policy towards Cuba.

Until we start a fair and just dialogue with Cuba, dismantle our dismal policy, we cannot help ourselves and can watch Russia and China expand their influence in Cuba as well as in South and Central America.

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